Scientists examine reasons for infertility in obese women

A study looks into the reasons why obese women have a more difficult time conceiving through in vitro fertilization.


A study appearing in the journal Human Reproduction looks into the reasons why obese women have a more difficult time conceiving through in vitro fertilization than females with a healthy weight.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of five pregnant women in the U.S. are obese, and are therefore prone to longer periods of hospitalization during delivery, increased use of healthcare and physician services, and a greater risk of contracting gestational diabetes mellitus.

The scientists affiliated with Brigham and Women's Hospital and Middlebury College looked at almost 300 human eggs that could not be fertilized in vitro. A little more than 100 were from obese women, while the rest were taken from women with an average weight. Noting that healthy eggs should have only grown one spindle - a mechanism that has a sequence of organized chromosomes attached - researchers say that 60 percent of the eggs from the obese group had grown a pair of spindles and 30 percent were hindered by disorganized chromosomes.

"This study is the first to shed light on how BMI might adversely affect egg quality in women. These observations provide novel insight into a possible cause for the reduced likelihood of success with in vitro fertilization in severely obese women," said Catherine Racowsky, director of the Assisted Reproductive Technologies Laboratory at Brigham and Women's. She went on to note that more studies will be necessary to determine the exact cause of this fertility problem.

In a follow-up article, the New York Daily News spoke with other medical professionals about the effect of obesity on pregnancy.

“Even amongst people who are already infertile, the egg quality is worse with high body mass index. Should obesity be treated prior to infertility treatments? We have to study that, but my hypothesis is yes," said Dr. Mitchell Roslin, chief of obesity surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, quoted by the news source.