Many studies show that being overweight adversely affects a woman’s fertility potential and increases the likelihood for early pregnancy loss and obstetrical complications. Many obese women have irregular or absent menstrual cycles. For many of these individuals, weight reduction alone will restore their normal ovulation and menstrual cycles and enhance their fertility potential. Often, these individuals will spontaneously conceive with no medical therapy once they have reduced their weight.

Prior to performing IVF, we discuss with our patients the impact of obesity on their IVF success rates at great length. Most are very appreciative of our concern and advice, and they are generally motivated to reduce their weight so that they will have a greater chance for success with IVF and for an uncomplicated pregnancy. We recommend that obese patients—defined as those with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 29—reduce their weight prior to establishing pregnancy.

Sometimes it takes 2 to 6 months of weight reduction to reach the goal prior to the planned IVF treatment. Regardless of the type of infertility treatment planned, weight loss can have a dramatic effect in terms of enhancing the chance of a successful pregnancy.

Fad or crash diets are not recommended when a woman is trying to lose weight prior to infertility treatment, as these practices can be harmful to general health. Local community nutritionists, organizations such as Weight Watchers, personal physicians, and information available on the Internet such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (www.ACOG.org) website can assist in establishing a plan for weight reduction.