Wednesday 30 June 1999
Obese women with ovarian disease can become pregnant if they lose weight
Woman who suffer from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) can improve their chances of conceiving naturally by losing weight, according to Italian researchers. They are also more likely to have a trouble-free pregnancy and normal birth.
PCOS can cause irregular menstrual cycles and ovaries which do not function properly. This can make it difficult for sufferers to become pregnant. Fertility treatment does not work well for the obese ones because they can often prove to be resistant to the drugs, they produce poorer quality eggs, and there is a higher risk of miscarriage, twin pregnancies and other complications. It is also very expensive.
The Italian team, led by Professor Pierre George Crosignani from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Milan University, found that if their patients managed to lose weight, their menstrual cycles often returned to normal, their ovaries produced eggs, and it became easier for them to conceive. A crucial factor appeared to be the loss of fat from around their middles.
Prof Crosignani said: “The desire for fertility gives these women a very strong motivation to lose weight. A high proportion of the patients in our study were able to comply with the diet; much higher than for women who simply need to lose weight. But we do support them in their efforts by taking care of them with a psychologist and a nutritionist. We are giving them a double health message: lose weight and improve your fertility at the same time.
“The great thing about it is that it happens so quickly. We are not talking about years of treatment; in just a few months a high proportion of our patients had not only lost weight, but five of them had become pregnant as well. I think this is the first time it’s been shown to have such an immediate effect.”
To achieve their weight loss the women in the Italian study had to eat 1,200 calories a day, and they were advised to exercise regularly.
Out of 26 women, 18 managed to lose between five and ten per cent of their body weight. Of these 12 had a resumption of regular menstrual cycles, 10 started ovulating naturally and five became pregnant without any further medical help. The women who did not lose weight had no improvement in their periods or ovulation and did not become pregnant.
Prof Crosignani said: “Obese women in general, but especially those with PCOS, should try to lose weight in order to get pregnant before trying other methods, such as IVF. It is a much healthier, cheaper and more effective way of achieving fertility.”
Prof Crosignani reported the results of his study at the meeting of the European Society of Human and Embryology (ESHRE) in Tours, France.
ESHRE is holding its 15th annual conference in Tours, France, from Sunday, June 27 to Wednesday, June 30. It has more than 3,700 members worldwide and is one of the major international societies in the field of reproduction and embryology.
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