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The desire to try for a baby opens all kinds of new questions up. Working on better health is one of the most common steps couples take. What about your weight? What is the ideal BMI for trying to conceive?

Why worry about your weight?

Most people finds their weight fluctuates at least a little throughout their lives. You may go through periods where you are underweight, and periods where you are a little overweight. Or, you may have problems with being underweight, overweight or obese throughout your life. We all know that extra pounds are best shed, and that underweight should be combated as well. But does a weight that's not ideal for your height influence your chances of getting pregnant?

Studies have shown that obese women (something that could also be called very overweight) have ovulatory disorders more often than those who are at a healthy weight. If you are obese, you may not ovulate, or may not ovulate regularly. However, even women who are only slightly overweight may be sub-fertile. This means they still have a fair chance of conceiving naturally without changing their weights, but that their odds are a bit lower. Women who are underweight could have issues with ovulation as well.

What is BMI?

BMI stands for Body Mass Index. Calculating a person's BMI is the quickest, easiest and cheapest way to find out how much body fat they have. There are other, more reliable and also more expensive and intrusive methods. You won't need to subject yourself to those unless you know you are very overweight. A healthy BMI falls between 18.5 and 24.9. If you are below that, you are underweight. If you have a higher BMI, you are overweight. A BMI of 30 or over would make you obese. You can go to your family doctor if you want your weight assessed before you try to conceive, but you can also calculate your Body Mass Index at home quite easily.

The formula depends on whether you are using Metric or Imperial measures: Weight in kilograms divided by height in centimeters, squared Weight in pounds divided by height in inches, squared, times 703 If you don't feel like doing the math yourself, you can find plenty of BMI calculators for free on the internet. As long as you know your height and current weight, you will know your BMI within no time at all. The ideal Body Mass Index for trying to conceive is any BMI within the "normal" (AKA "healthy weight") range. If you find that you are on the low end of the scale, or on the high end, you could improve your health and your chances of getting pregnant by working on your weight. Those who are overweight can try exercising more and a diet, but could also benefit from seeing a nutritionist or dietician. Women who are underweight should also consult with a medical professional, especially if they are not sure why they are underweight.

Losing weight before trying to conceive

More women struggle with losing weight than with being underweight and trying to gain. So, what can you do to shed those pounds and achieve an ideal BMI? And should you wait until you lose your weight, before you take the plunge and try to conceive? The answers to these questions are highly individual. One thing goes for every woman in this situation, however it's good to see your family doctor for a consultation. Every person who wants to try to conceive (men and women) should ideally have a preconception health check before going for it. This appointment looks at things like blood pressure, sexually transmitted diseases, and dietary quality.

During this appointment, you can also ask for advice on how and how quickly you should lose weight and on whether you should delay your TTC plans until you do shed your weight. Being at a healthy weight is good for you, but also for your baby once you do conceive. Being overweight or obese does mean you have a higher risk of certain pregnancy complications, from gestational diabetes to back pain. Women who do get pregnant when they are obese or overweight should know that research has shown that it is safe to lose weight through a healthy diet during pregnancy. That's all we'll say here healthy eating and exercise lectures are useless and condescending. I've been there with the hurtful and clueless comments about weight, and they suck. Just know that if you need help, it is indeed out there.

  • Photo courtesy of Tobyotter
  • Photo courtesy of Tobyotter

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