BETHESDA – A study at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) indicates that obese couples may take longer to achieve pregnancy.
“Obesity is a growing epidemic in United States and other countries. While it is common sense that it takes two to get pregnant, recent research has indicated that the male’s contribution has been overlooked,” Rajeshwari Sundaram, a senior investigator at NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, wrote in an email.
The study was conducted as part of the Longitudinal Investigation of Fertility and Environment Study that looks at national statistics and examines the relationship between fertility and exposure to environmental chemicals. 501 couples residing in Michigan and Texas took part between 2005 and 2009.
Participants were divided into two groups based on their body mass index, which measures a person’s height to weight ratio.
Results indicated that the heavier group took longer to become pregnant than the lighter group. Factors such as smoking, age, and physical activity prolonged pregnancy among the heavier group.
“Ours is the first we’re aware of to find reduced fertility in obese couples not being treated for infertility. Also, many studies have focused largely on the female,” wrote Sundaram. “Our results underscore the importance of including both partners when assessing couple fecundity,” she added.
According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), obesity during pregnancy can increase the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and pregnancy loss.
The ACOG also notes that newborns from obese mothers have an increased risk of birth defects and a variety of diagnostic problems due to too much fat being on the baby’s body.
Sundaram explained that the study has potential for additional research including more direct methods of studying body composition.
“A follow up study could help confirm our findings in a larger data set that is more representative of the population as a whole,” wrote Sundaram.