Obese Couples May Struggle to Get Pregnant, According to New Study

A new study finds a link between obesity and fertility struggles. If you're overweight and trying to conceive, here's what you should know.

Obese Couple and Fertility chaiwarin/Shutterstock
If you're trying to conceive, chances are you and your partner are utilizing best practices—having unprotected sex, gaining a solid understanding of your cycle, charting your basal body temperature. But here's the thing: It's not just what you do while you're trying to get pregnant—it's also important that your body is in a condition that favors conception, and a huge part of that involves being at a healthy weight.

While there's evidence to suggest that both overweight and underweight women may have a harder time conceiving, a new study suggests that if both partners are obese, it may take the couple 55 to 59 precent longer to conceive. 

The study, which was carried out by the National Institutes of Health, was published in Human Reproduction. Researchers observed 501 couples who kept records of their menstrual cycles, intercourse and pregnancy test results. Participants were grouped based on their BMIs—two of these groups were composed of obese couples.

Researchers found that of the two groups of obese couples, the group with higher BMIs took much longer to conceive than their non-obese counterparts. While this isn't a huge newsflash—after all, other studies have indicated that obese women may struggle to conceive—it is surprising that the obesity in men could have such a profound effect.

"A lot of studies on fertility and body composition have focused on the female partner, but our findings underscore the importance of including both partners. Our results also indicate that fertility specialists may want to consider couples' body compositions when counseling patients," Rajeshwari Sundaram, Ph.D., a senior investigator in the Division of Intramural Population Health Research at NIH's Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, said in a release for the study.

Our take? If you're struggling to get pregnant and have a BMI that puts you within the obese range, have a conversation with your doctor. Getting in shape and ensuring your body is as healthy as possible before getting pregnant is always a good idea—and if this research is any indication, it just might be a necessary step.