Fertility Fact: Women who are underweight or have very low body fat are at risk of irregular or completely absent menstrual cycles which would impact their chances of pregnancy.
How does being underweight impact my fertility?
We have all heard stories of gymnast and other female athletes who lose so much body fat from intense training that they stop having their periods. This is because the body attempts to conserve energy by stopping certain functions, like having periods, when our body fat is reduced below a certain point. This is referred to as hypothalamic amenorrhea, a condition in which menstruation is interrupted for months at a time due to an disruption in part of the brain called the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus helps control hormones which play a crucial role in ovulation, pregnancy, and your general health (particularly bone health).
Eating disorders and extreme exercise are possible causes of hypothalamic amenorrhea. Extreme emotional stress can also cause periods to stop for this reason. It is important to take care of your body and maintain a healthy BMI (between 18.5-24.9). Having a very low BMI can have as much of a negative impact on your fertility as having a very high BMI. To check your BMI, click here.
Eating disorders and extreme exercise are potential causes for hypothalamic amenorrhea, so if this applies, the first step is addressing these underlying causes. Even a small amount of weight gain may be sufficient to tip the body’s thermostat back into resuming normal functions, like ovulating naturally. For other patients, it may be necessary to be treated through traditional fertility methods, including supplementing the missing hormones to induce ovulation.
It is important to know that there are other causes of hypothalamic amenorrhea, and anytime your period is absent for multiple months without an explanation, you should check in with your physician. According to Shady Grove Fertility physician Dr. Joseph Doyle, “It’s not just a matter of addressing fertility concerns, but also protecting your overall health. Your body is sending you a signal when you stop having periods without any reason to explain it.”
If you have are experiencing irregular or absent periods and unable to conceive, you may need to speak with a fertility specialist. Please call 1-877-971-7755 or click here to learn more.
And sometimes in a culture obsessed with body image, it is nice to have a reason to indulge in a little Halloween candy.