IVF and Non-Surgical Weight Loss: A Path to a Healthy Pregnancy

Dr. Christopher McGowan
May 15, 2024

Understanding the Impact of Obesity on Fertility

Obesity is on the rise globally among women of reproductive age; experts estimate that by 2025, one in five women will be clinically obese. Obesity’s links to chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease are well-documented, but excess weight can also cause reproductive health problems, including infertility, miscarriage, and harmful fetal conditions.  

How Does Obesity Affect Fertility?

For women hoping to get pregnant, the interplay between weight loss and fertility paints a complicated picture. Obesity impacts egg quality, interferes with uterine implantation, and raises your risk of miscarriage. On the other hand, drastic weight loss can also negatively impact fertility.

Too much or too little body fat disrupts the balance of reproductive hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle. Overweight and underweight women may not ovulate regularly, making conception, implantation, and pregnancy difficult. Extra fat cells also produce extra estrogen, which can interrupt ovulation (you produce extra estrogen on hormonal birth control and during pregnancy, for example).

Today, there are several assisted reproductive technologies available to help women get pregnant; unfortunately, obesity lowers your chances of conceiving, even with these interventions.  

A recent study in the American Society of Reproductive Medicine found that more than 70 percent of women with obesity-related infertility could get pregnant without intervention if they lost excess body weight and brought their BMI into a healthy range.

Obesity can impact fertility in many ways. Women with obesity are twice as likely to suffer a pregnancy loss. Obese women who are undergoing fertility treatment may also experience adverse outcomes – a lower pregnancy rate, lower live birth rate, and higher rate of miscarriage.

A healthy weight loss plan consisting of nutrition counseling, regular exercise, and stress reduction techniques can boost fertility. But sometimes, these measures are not enough to achieve your weight loss goals. Women who want to give their fertility journey the best possible shot but have struggled to lose weight through diet and exercise might consider a non-surgical weight procedure, such as endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty or a gastric balloon.

What is IVF?

For women struggling to conceive, in-vitro fertilization (IVF) is one of the most popular and time-tested assisted reproductive technologies. IVF treatment utilizes a variety of medications and procedures to aid with egg fertilization and embryo implantation. Typically, the procedure involves taking hormonal medication to bring several eggs to maturity at once. Those eggs are then retrieved from the ovaries through a minimally invasive surgical procedure, fertilized in a laboratory, and then placed directly into the woman’s uterus. The embryos need to implant into the uterine lining for the woman to become pregnant.

It can take several rounds of IVF treatment to become pregnant, and unfortunately, there is no guarantee of success. During their IVF journey, many women experience weight gain from hormonal medications, the stress of trying to conceive, or simply the lifestyle interruptions that fertility treatments can bring. Hormones can also cause bloating and fluid retention. IVF weight gain is usually temporary and should resolve after treatment, but in some cases, losing weight after fertility treatments is complicated by lifestyle changes and hormonal shifts.

Losing and Maintaining Healthy Weight Before and After IVF

Losing weight before IVF can improve your chances of becoming pregnant. Research shows that weight loss may contribute to higher rates of spontaneous ovulation and spontaneous pregnancy; women who lost 10 percent of their body weight or more achieved the best outcomes. It may also reduce the dosage of hormonal medications needed for IVF treatment to be effective.

However, obesity is a chronic, relapsing, multi-factor condition, and many women will be unable to drop the necessary weight to boost fertility without medical interventions. Non-surgical weight loss procedures like endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty and gastric balloons are excellent options for women who want to bring their weight down before trying to conceive. They require no external incisions or cutting, which means minimal downtime and most patients can return to their normal routine within a few days.

During IVF treatments, you can maintain your weight with healthy eating habits, regular exercise, stress management, and getting plenty of sleep. Not all women will gain weight during IVF, as everybody is different. Working with a nutritionist can help you feel armed with a plan to both boost fertility and prevent weight gain.

Likewise, after an IVF journey (whether or not it results in pregnancy), many women will struggle to lose stubborn weight from hormonal shifts and lifestyle changes.

Safe, medically-guided weight loss before or after IVF is recommended. Engaging an obesity medicine physician can help ensure that your weight loss journey is safe and aligns with your overall health goals.  

True You Weight Loss: Expertise and Support

True You Weight Loss is one of the highest volume endobariatric weight loss centers in the United States, working with women in all stages of life to reach their desired weight and reclaim their confidence. We’ve worked with many patients struggling with fertility – and our physicians can help ensure your weight loss is safe and help you understand how hormonal changes may affect your journey. Our team of registered dietitians can help educate you on how to get the important nutrients needed to facilitate and maintain a healthy pregnancy when and if treatments are successful.

Dr. Lauren Donnangelo, Dr. Daniel Maselli, and Dr. Christopher McGowan are among the handful of physicians in the country who are triple board-certified in internal medicine, gastroenterology, and obesity medicine. They’ve performed thousands of endoscopic weight loss procedures, including endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty, gastric balloon placement, and bariatric surgery revisions.

We’ve worked with patients from 45 states and 10 countries and offer an unrivaled level of concierge care and service, including 24/7 physician access, nutrition counseling, and lifelong follow-up and guidance. We celebrate patients’ victories on and off the scale, offering encouragement at every step of their journey.

If you’d like to learn more about the non-surgical weight loss procedures offered at True You Weight Loss and how they might complement your IVF treatment, please contact us to request a consultation.

Dr. Christopher McGowan
Dr. Christopher McGowan

Dr. Christopher McGowan, MD, a leader in endobariatrics, specializes in non-surgical obesity treatments and is triple-board-certified in Internal Medicine, Gastroenterology, and Obesity Medicine. Renowned for pioneering endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty (ESG) with over 2,000 procedures, his global influence and research contributions define him as a top expert.

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