Losing weight to boost fertility

Amanda from Essex had no idea how her diagnosis of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) as a teenager would later impact her dream of having a baby.

“I was 18 when I was told that I had PCOS,” Amanda recalls. “The relationship between PCOS, weight gain and fertility was never explained to me. I was just told there was nothing to be done until I wanted to start a family.”

PCOS is related to hormone abnormalities and can cause irregular periods, weight gain and infertility. Many women with PCOS are resistant to insulin so their bodies produce too much insulin and this impacts egg production and can also make it difficult to lose weight.

Amanda and Ross with baby Meredith

Losing weight to boost fertility

Unaware of the need to manage her weight to protect her fertility, Amanda had a body mass index (BMI) of 49 and was morbidly obese by the time, in her late 30s, she had found her life partner and wanted to start a family.

Investigations at the local hospital showed her fallopian tubes were blocked, her ovaries damaged and partner Ross’s sperm had morphology issues. The only way she could conceive would be with IVF treatment.

In a state of shock, Amanda was told that she needed to reduce her BMI to 35 before the consultant would refer her for NHS funded IVF treatment. She would need to get to 30 before treatment could start but as the NHS referral process takes months to go through, hopefully she would have hit the right level by the time the paperwork had gone through.

Amanda had a friend whose mum worked at Bourn Hall and she encouraged her to go for a free fertility consultation to gain a second opinion. It was there that the fertility nurse specialist explained to Amanda the impact of weight on fertility and how PCOS affected her chances of conceiving.

Amanda and baby Meredith at Bourn Hall Wickford 2
Amanda and baby Meredith say hello to the team at Bourn Hall Wickford

Magic number BMI 35

This encouraged Amanda and gave her hope in her mission. PCOS makes it harder to lose weight but Amanda was determined and lost 5 stone in a year, reaching the magic BMI 35 and booked another appointment with the hospital consultant expecting a referral.

Instead she was told she would need to lose more weight to meet the NHS criteria and offered a laparoscopy to clear her tubes, but warned with the low sperm count this would make little difference. Amanda felt crushed and at 38 years old she knew her egg quality and quantity were fast diminishing.

“I was scared that in the time spent losing weight to boost fertility my eggs would be reduced still further.”

Welcomed at Bourn Hall 

Amanda explains that the couple decided not to wait for NHS funding. “We decided to postpone our wedding and use all our savings, together with help from Ross’s parents, to self-fund IVF treatment to fulfil our dreams of having a family.

“Bourn Hall welcomed us from the start. This made us feel relaxed and excited about the future. It took just two weeks to have all the tests required and we started treatment. As a nurse I wasn’t bothered by the injections and Ross and family and work colleagues were a great support.”

Unfortunately, this first round did not produce eggs of good quality, and only two embryos were available for transfer. “It was the hardest two weeks, I was trying to be optimistic but deep down I knew it hadn’t worked. On 17th December our fears were confirmed and then we had to struggle through Christmas and the New Year.

“I decided to continue to try and lose weight and had lost a total of 8 stone when we went for a second cycle in February.

“This time we had two good quality embryos to transfer. The funniest thing happened when getting into the car to go home. I had a funny feeling in my tummy, felt light-headed and surge of heat came over me. It lasted a few minutes. I wasn’t sure what it was, but it felt a good sign.

“We waited two weeks and tried out our test on Good Friday – it was a great Friday – we were pregnant. The happiest day of our lives.”

The pregnancy scan at Bourn Hall confirmed the good news and in November 2018 – two years after Amanda and Ross were told they had so little chance of success – they achieved their dream and welcomed Meredith Esme Peggy into their lives.

Amanda says being a mum is the best thing in the world and is so glad she persevered and lost the weight she needed to have successful fertility treatment.

Welcomed at Bourn Hall 

Amanda explains that the couple decided not to wait for NHS funding. “We decided to postpone our wedding and use all our savings, together with help from Ross’s parents, to self-fund IVF treatment to fulfil our dreams of having a family.

“Bourn Hall welcomed us from the start. This made us feel relaxed and excited about the future. It took just two weeks to have all the tests required and we started treatment. As a nurse I wasn’t bothered by the injections and Ross and family and work colleagues were a great support.”

Unfortunately, this first round did not produce eggs of good quality, and only two embryos were available for transfer. “It was the hardest two weeks, I was trying to be optimistic but deep down I knew it hadn’t worked. On 17th December our fears were confirmed and then we had to struggle through Christmas and the New Year.

“I decided to continue to try and lose weight and had lost a total of 8 stone when we went for a second cycle in February.

“This time we had two good quality embryos to transfer. The funniest thing happened when getting into the car to go home. I had a funny feeling in my tummy, felt light-headed and surge of heat came over me. It lasted a few minutes. I wasn’t sure what it was, but it felt a good sign.

“We waited two weeks and tried out our test on Good Friday – it was a great Friday – we were pregnant. The happiest day of our lives.”

The scan confirmed the good news and in November 2018 – two years after Amanda and Ross were told they had so little chance of success – they achieved their dream and welcomed Meredith Esme Peggy into their lives.

Amanda says being a mum is the best thing in the world and is so glad she persevered and lost the weight she needed to have successful fertility treatment.

More information

Support to help you when losing weight to boost to boost your fertility – click here

Free fertility diagnosis and OI treatment service for patients referred by a GP – click here

Common causes of female infertility – click here

BMI and impact on IVF success – click here 

Contact us to discuss any of the themes mentioned in this post – click here 

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