BMI and fertility – how to achieve your ‘magic number’

If you need help losing weight – to boost your natural fertility chances or to be referred for fertility treatment – free help is at hand

What is BMI and how does it affect fertility?

A woman’s fertility can be directly affected by her Body Mass Index (BMI) – so if you are trying to get pregnant naturally this is one of the first things you should investigate.

Most people have a set of bathroom scales at home and have an idea of how much they weigh – but not everyone is familiar with how Body Mass Index is measured. BMI is calculated by dividing an adult’s weight by the square of their height – the NHS website has an easy-to-use BMI calculator here if you need to work out what your BMI is.

The NHS regards a ‘healthy BMI’ for adults as being between 18.5 and 24.9.

To maximise the chance of natural conception and a healthy pregnancy it is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) that couples have a BMI of 19-30. For obese women who have irregular or no periods at all losing weight can help to stimulate their ovulation – whilst for others it can improve the chances of a pregnancy in conjunction with ovulation induction (OI) or IVF treatment.

Men also need to be a healthy weight to improve chances of conception – Find out more about the causes and treatments available for male infertility.

Losing weight for an IVF referral

According to NICE, IVF is more effective for women who have a BMI of between 19 and 30. If your BMI is considered to be too high you will not be eligible for an NHS referral for IVF until after you have reduced it to the ‘magic number’ (if you are funding your own treatment you may be accepted with a slightly higher BMI).

Forty five per cent of Bourn Hall patients now have a BMI of more than 25 and, encouragingly, recent research at Bourn Hall has shown that success rates can be improved for women with a BMI of 25-30 through a selection of the most appropriate drugs protocol.

Sabrina and her husband Carl tried for three years to get pregnant without success and were told that IVF could help them because of Carl’s poor sperm motility. However Sabrina’s BMI prevented them from being referred as it was too high and she was told she would need to reduce it.

“I was never much good at dieting but I was so determined!” says Sabrina. “I signed up for an online weightloss progamme and started going to the gym at work. And because I knew that I wanted a child more than I wanted a slice of cake or some chocolate that was my motivation.”

Over the course of nine months Sabrina lost an impressive four stone.

The couple were referred to Bourn Hall Clinic and their treatment worked first time and they are now proud parents to Jakub.

Specialist help with dieting

Certain medical conditions can make it more difficult for some women to lose weight than others – and Bourn Hall has access to a number of specialist dieticians and nutritionalists who can give personalised advice.

Krishani was diagnosed with insulin resistant syndrome after struggling with her weight and infertility for many years.

Insulin resistance affects a person’s metabolism and is linked to a number of health disorders such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity and polycystic ovary syndrome.

Krishani was diagnosed with insulin resistant syndrome

Krishani was put on metformin to regulate her blood sugar levels – and with the help of a dietician and taking up exercise at her local gym she lost two stone in the space of six months. This had the added bonus  that when Krishani and her husband were told that IVF was their best option her BMI levels were already within the accepted levels for NHS-funded IVF treatment.

The couple came to Bourn Hall Clinic and their second cycle of treatment was successful .  Krishani, delighted to finally be a mum,  remains  optimistic that for most people making some changes might be all they need to get pregnant naturally – but urges people not to delay getting some initial advice if they are worried.

“For a lot of people some help with lifestyle changes or simple medical intervention could help them conceive naturally but if it turns out that you do need fertility treatment as I did then the younger you are the better your chances,” says Krishani.

You don’t need to wait to lose weight or get some advice

East Anglia map

The good news is that across East Anglia there are free weight loss programmes available for anyone needing to lose weight – some by GP referral and others by self-referral.

Click through the tabs above to find your nearest free programme.

In addition Bourn Hall offers a free 30-minute fertility consultation with a fertility nurse specialist to anyone worried about their fertility at each of its clinics – for more information visit our free fertility advice blog here.

Essex (North, East and West)

Essex (North, East, West)

All of Essex (except Southend and Thurrock): Ace Lifestyle

Free to anyone living in Essex, ‘ACE Lifestyle’ offers a range of free adult weight management services for people with BMI from 27 to 35 including face-to-face, telephone support and a 12-week online programme to help people lose weight.

You can self-refer.

More information acelifestyle.org/weight-management

Essex (South and West)

Essex (South)

Southend: Everyone Health

Everyone Health offers Southend residents weight management group and one-to-one sessions with nutritionists. Some residents are also offered free access to 12 weeks of Slimming World, Weight Watchers and Trim and Train in Southend.

Eligibility:

  • Anyone aged 16+ who lives or works in Southend
  • Or registered with a GP in Southend
  • Your BMI needs to be equal or greater than 25

You can self-refer.

More information southend.everyonehealth.co.uk/services/weight-management

 

West and South Essex: MoreLife

MoreLife runs free adult weight management services for individuals in West and South Essex (including Southend on Sea) with BMI over 35 and who meet the eligibility criteria.

You can self-refer – or be referred by your GP or a health professional (including Bourn Hall).

You need to meet the following criteria:

  • Have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or above
  • Have a BMI of 35+ and an obesity-related co-morbidity e.g. Type 2 Diabetes, metabolic syndrome, Hypertension, Obstructive Sleep Apnoea, infertility and depression if specialist advice is needed regarding overall patient management
  • Have a BMI of 32.5+, type 2 diabetes and of Asian descent
  • Be a resident of West Essex or South Essex

For more information go to: more-life.co.uk/what-we-do/our-services/in-your-area/essex

Norfolk

Norfolk

Slimming World

More than two-thirds of adults in Norfolk are classed as overweight or obese. If you’re aged 18 or over and have a BMI of 30 or more, you may be eligible for the free Norfolk ‘Slimming World on referral programme’.

You’ll need to meet the criteria to access the programme and be referred by a health professional in your GP practice.

More information: www.norfolk.gov.uk/care-support-and-health/health-and-wellbeing/adults-health/weight-management

Cambridgeshire

Cambs

Cambridgeshire (excluding Peterborough): Everyone Health

Everyone Health ‘Changepoint Cambs weight management groups’ are free to those aged 16 and older who are overweight or obese. The groups run once a week for 12 weeks and each session lasts for 90 minutes. People can join at any time as groups run on a rolling basis. There are usually 10-15 people who are also looking to lose weight and feel healthier.

Before your first group session you will have a one-to-one appointment. This will outline the programme and take some measurements, such as your height, weight and blood pressure. A weight loss plan will be created with small changes to help you reach your goals.

You can self-refer or be referred by a health professional.

More information: www.everyonehealth.co.uk/cambridgeshire-county-council/adult-weight-management/

Peterborough

Peterborough

Shape up 4 Life

Around two in three Peterborough adults are either overweight or obese. Shape up 4 Life is a free weight adult management service comprising of healthy eating workshops and exercise sessions.

Health professionals can refer.

More information: healthypeterborough.co.uk/my-health-menu/eating-well

Suffolk

Suffolk

OneLife Suffolk

OneLife Suffolk (MoreLife) provides up to 12 months of free adult weight management support, providing the tools, advice and guidance needed to improve lifestyle, achieve weight loss goals and sustain the changes made for good. A 12-week programme is followed up by monthly maintenance sessions.

You can self-refer and sessions run across Suffolk. To be eligible for free weight management support through OneLife Suffolk you must meet the following criteria:

  • have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more
  • have a BMI of 27.5+ and are of Black African, African-Caribbean or Asian origin
  • have a BMI of 27.5+ and have any of the following conditions: Type 2 Diabetes, Hypertension, Cardio Vascular Disease, Osteoarthritis, Dyslipidaemia or Sleep Apnoea.
  • be a Suffolk resident i.e. paying your council tax to Suffolk County Council

More information onelifesuffolk.co.uk/lose-weight-adults/

Bedfordshire

Bedfordshire

MoreLife

MoreLife runs Free adult weight management services for individuals in Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes and who meet the eligibility criteria.

You can self-refer or be referred by a health professional including Bourn Hall.

You have to meet the following criteria:

  • be aged 16 or above, and a resident of Bedford Borough, Central Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes
  • have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or above
    OR
  • have a BMI of 27.5+ from a Black African, African-Carribean or South Asian population
  • have a BMI of 27.5+ and have one or more of the following: Type 2 Diabetes, Hypertension, Cardio Vascular Disease, Osteoarthritis, Dyslipidaemia, Sleep Apnoea, Non-diabetic hyperglycaemia

For more information go to: www.more-life.co.uk

Hertfordshire

Hertfordshire

In Hertfordshire your GP can refer you for a free 12-week subscription to WW (previously known as Weightwatchers) if you are over 16 and have a BMI of over 30.

Also, Watford Football Club run a free 12-week weightloss programme called Shape Up which is for men only (aged 18 to 60) with a BMI of 30 or over (28 for BME communities). You can self-refer or be referred through your GP. For more information go to www.watfordfccsetrust.com/shape

You don’t need to wait to lose weight or get some advice

The good news is that across East Anglia there are free weight loss programmes available for anyone needing to lose weight – some by GP referral and others by self-referral.

Click through the tabs below to find your nearest free programme.

In addition Bourn Hall offers a free 30-minute fertility consultation with a fertility nurse specialist to anyone worried about their fertility at each of its clinics – for more information visit our free fertility advice blog here.

All of Essex (except Southend and Thurrock): Ace Lifestyle

Free to anyone living in Essex, ‘ACE Lifestyle’ offers a range of free adult weight management services for people with BMI from 27 to 35 including face-to-face, telephone support and a 12-week online programme to help people lose weight.

You can self-refer.

More information acelifestyle.org/weight-management

Southend: Everyone Health

Everyone Health offers Southend residents weight management group and one-to-one sessions with nutritionists. Some residents are also offered free access to 12 weeks of Slimming World, Weight Watchers and Trim and Train in Southend.

Eligibility:

  • Anyone aged 16+ who lives or works in Southend
  • Or registered with a GP in Southend
  • Your BMI needs to be equal or greater than 25

You can self-refer.

More information southend.everyonehealth.co.uk/services/weight-management

 

West and South Essex: MoreLife

MoreLife runs free adult weight management services for individuals in West and South Essex (including Southend on Sea) with BMI over 35 and who meet the eligibility criteria.

You can self-refer – or be referred by your GP or a health professional (including Bourn Hall).

You need to meet the following criteria:

  • Have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or above
  • Have a BMI of 35+ and an obesity-related co-morbidity e.g. Type 2 Diabetes, metabolic syndrome, Hypertension, Obstructive Sleep Apnoea, infertility and depression if specialist advice is needed regarding overall patient management
  • Have a BMI of 32.5+, type 2 diabetes and of Asian descent
  • Be a resident of West Essex or South Essex

For more information go to: more-life.co.uk/what-we-do/our-services/in-your-area/essex

Slimming World

More than two-thirds of adults in Norfolk are classed as overweight or obese. If you’re aged 18 or over and have a BMI of 30 or more, you may be eligible for the free Norfolk ‘Slimming World on referral programme’.

You’ll need to meet the criteria to access the programme and be referred by a health professional in your GP practice.

More information: www.norfolk.gov.uk/care-support-and-health/health-and-wellbeing/adults-health/weight-management

Cambridgeshire (excluding Peterborough): Everyone Health

Everyone Health ‘Changepoint Cambs weight management groups’ are free to those aged 16 and older who are overweight or obese. The groups run once a week for 12 weeks and each session lasts for 90 minutes. People can join at any time as groups run on a rolling basis. There are usually 10-15 people who are also looking to lose weight and feel healthier.

Before your first group session you will have a one-to-one appointment. This will outline the programme and take some measurements, such as your height, weight and blood pressure. A weight loss plan will be created with small changes to help you reach your goals.

You can self-refer or be referred by a health professional.

More information: www.everyonehealth.co.uk/cambridgeshire-county-council/adult-weight-management/

Shape up 4 Life

Around two in three Peterborough adults are either overweight or obese. Shape up 4 Life is a free weight adult management service comprising of healthy eating workshops and exercise sessions.

Health professionals can refer.

More information: healthypeterborough.co.uk/my-health-menu/eating-well

OneLife Suffolk

OneLife Suffolk (MoreLife) provides up to 12 months of free adult weight management support, providing the tools, advice and guidance needed to improve lifestyle, achieve weight loss goals and sustain the changes made for good. A 12-week programme is followed up by monthly maintenance sessions.

You can self-refer and sessions run across Suffolk. To be eligible for free weight management support through OneLife Suffolk you must meet the following criteria:

  • have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more
  • have a BMI of 27.5+ and are of Black African, African-Caribbean or Asian origin
  • have a BMI of 27.5+ and have any of the following conditions: Type 2 Diabetes, Hypertension, Cardio Vascular Disease, Osteoarthritis, Dyslipidaemia or Sleep Apnoea.
  • be a Suffolk resident i.e. paying your council tax to Suffolk County Council

More information onelifesuffolk.co.uk/lose-weight-adults/

MoreLife

MoreLife runs Free adult weight management services for individuals in Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes and who meet the eligibility criteria.

You can self-refer or be referred by a health professional including Bourn Hall.

You have to meet the following criteria:

  • be aged 16 or above, and a resident of Bedford Borough, Central Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes
  • have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or above
    OR
  • have a BMI of 27.5+ from a Black African, African-Carribean or South Asian population
  • have a BMI of 27.5+ and have one or more of the following: Type 2 Diabetes, Hypertension, Cardio Vascular Disease, Osteoarthritis, Dyslipidaemia, Sleep Apnoea, Non-diabetic hyperglycaemia

For more information go to: www.more-life.co.uk

In Hertfordshire your GP can refer you for a free 12-week subscription to WW (previously known as Weightwatchers) if you are over 16 and have a BMI of over 30.

Also, Watford Football Club run a free 12-week weightloss programme called Shape Up which is for men only (aged 18 to 60) with a BMI of 30 or over (28 for BME communities). You can self-refer or be referred through your GP. For more information go to www.watfordfccsetrust.com/shape

More information

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Common causes of male infertility – more information 

Free consultation with a Fertility Nutritionist  – more information 

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