This article in the Mirror online reports that couples who's BMI is too high or too low will no longer be offered a round of IVF on the NHS (in England). We already know that women with a BMI over 35 have to cut this to 30 before being offered a round of IVF in Scotland. In England they also need to have been trying to conceive for 3 years rather than 2.
Having worked with couples who are trying to conceive for the last 12 + years, we understand how frustrating new stipulations can be. It just seems like another hoop to have to jump through. But on the other hand, we also know that many couples will go on to conceive once they have either lost or gained enough body fat to allow their hormones to balance out. So it makes sense to get this sorted before embarking on IVF.
People usually only think of body fat as a way to tell how much people eat and/or exercise - too much or too little. What is not as commonly understood is that reproductive hormones are stored in your body fat. This is why women with too little fat (like long distance runners) often stop having periods. Their bodies cannot store enough oestrogen to generate ovulation and therefore to have regular period. With men it's the same. Men with high levels of body fat will have too much oestrogen which effects their testosterone levels and sperm production.
At the weekend, some of the Natural Fertility Team were at the Fertility Fair in Manchester where we met and chatted with many couples struggling to conceive and also consultants and researchers from the IVF world. It was an interesting weekend and we did notice a number of people (hetero-sexual & same-sex couples and single women) who were overweight and a few who were obviously underweight. If these imbalances could be put right before turning to IVF then maybe fewer couples would reach the point where they felt they needed it. Obviously, some couples DO need IVF - those with blocked tubes, no sperm or other medical conditions that make natural conception impossible - and that was what IVF was invented for but many consultants and IVF nurses say readily that couples could improve their chances by addressing their general health.
To this end we will be putting up more general nutritional and life style information on our site over the next while so everyone can access the basics. In theory it's not that difficult to achieve a good level of body fat once you are motivated enough and if you can follow and stick to the advice. It can and should be a slow and steady process but it's amazing how much simple changes or additions to diet can help bring levels of body fat to their optimum place and restore hormonal balance, allowing a greater chance of natural conception as well as IVF success. We know it's not always easy in practice - and sometimes it's actually more difficult to gain body fat than lose it - but it is possible with the right support and perseverance.