Obesity Impairs Fertility More in Black Women

Written by yvonnethornton on November 5th, 2012

Infertility can be heartbreaking to women trying to conceive. Dreams of holding a newborn baby in the delivery room are often put on hold as women who have been diagnosed as infertile seek alternative methods of conception. Infertility is technically defined as a woman’s inability to get pregnant after a year of trying with no contraceptive methods. There are numerous causes of infertility, but sometimes doctors are unable to determine the cause on a case-by-case basis. Often, infertility is a result of obesity. A recent study showed that obese black women are often more infertile than white women.


Healthy black women do not necessarily have a harder time getting pregnant than healthy white women. However, black women who are obese will have a harder time than white women in the same situation. Specifically, a larger hip-to-waist ratio was associated with infertility. The study could not confirm why women heavier in the lower body and hips area had a harder time getting pregnant, but it could be a result of inhibited estrogen metabolism caused by a large amount of fat. An increase in the resistance to insulin might also be to blame.


The results of the study should be an incentive for obese black women looking to conceive to lose weight. In addition to increasing fertility, a healthy weight prior to conception will make for an easier pregnancy and a healthier baby. However, the results should also be taken with a grain of salt. The results failed to study the health of the potential fathers, who might also have been obese. Obesity in men could lower their sperm count, which would make it even harder for obese couples to conceive.


Obese women, whether black or white, will have a harder time getting pregnant. Though these results suggest that infertility is more common in black women who are obese, women of either race should attempt to reach a healthy weight before trying to have a baby. Fertility will be increased, and you’ll have a happier and healthier pregnancy. If you’re having trouble conceiving, you should talk to your physician about ovulation treatments and the potential for an IVF.


– Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.


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