Weight loss before fertility treatment may not increase chance of healthy birth for obese women, study finds

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A new study found that losing weight may not be necessary for obese women undergoing fertility treatments.

Many overweight women who have trouble conceiving are often told to lose weight before starting fertility treatments since obesity is associated with pregnancy complications. New research from Penn State College of Medicine, however, found that women with obesity and unexplained infertility who lost weight prior to starting treatments did not have a greater chance of having a healthy baby than those who did not lose weight prior to starting therapy.

The National Institutes of Health‐sponsored study, published in PLOS Medicine, evaluated more 379 women across nine academic health centers across the United States. Participants all had a body mass index of greater than or equal to 30 kg/m2, experienced regular ovulation, and struggled with unexplained infertility. Each participant was randomly assigned to two lifestyle modification groups lasting 16 weeks, followed by infertility therapy consisting of three cycles of ovarian stimulation/intrauterine insemination. The first group underwent increased physical activity and weight loss through meal replacements and medication, according to the study. The second group focused on physical activity without weight loss. Outcomes of any pregnancy was tracked.

The results found that there were no significant differences in the incidence of healthy live births, even though the first group had a seven percent weight loss compared to the second.

For those integrative practitioners who work with obese women struggling with infertility issues, weight loss prior to undergoing fertility treatment may not be as critical as once thought.