Over the past four decades, obesity has been on the rise. Today, 34% of adult American women are characterized as obese. But exactly what is obesity and what are some of its causes? And with so many American women battling obesity it’s important to know, what the effects of obesity are on obese women and their health ‘ including their reproductive health. Does being obese affect a woman’s fertility or pose any risks to her pregnancy?

Read on for information on the obesity epidemic and its effects on your well-being.

A Definition of Obesity

A person is defined as obese if her body mass index (BMI) is 30 or higher. It is important to distinguish obesity from being overweight. A person is defined as being overweight if her BMI is between 25 and 29.9.

What Causes Obesity?

Obesity is a chronic disease with a strong genetic component.

Fast food also causes obesity, and American obesity has been linked scientifically to the typical American diet that is high in fats, salt and sugar, and is dominated by over-sized portions.

In addition to an unhealthy diet, another environmental factor leading to obesity is a lack of exercise.

The Effects of Obesity

The effects of obesity on a women’s health are enormous. Obesity has been linked to the following diseases and conditions:

  • type II diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • heart disease
  • stroke
  • hypertension
  • sleep apnea
  • osteoarthritis
  • certain types of cancer, including breast cancer

Obesity and Fertility

Obesity can also have a major impact on a woman’s fertility. Some effects obesity can have on a woman’s reproductive health include:

  • reduced ovulation
  • a lowered response to fertility treatments
  • decreased pregnancy rate
  • risks to pregnancy outcome

Obesity and Pregnancy

In addition, obese women face major health risks during pregnancy. Obesity has been linked to the following pregnancy complications:

  • gestational diabetes
  • Cesarean sections
  • birth defects; particularly neural tube defects (NTDs) such as spina bifida (because being obese interferes with the absorption of folate, which wards off NTDs)
  • pregnancy hypertension

Obesity can also lead to post-pregnancy complications, such as urinary tract infections and wounds that do not heal easily.

Obesity Treatment

There are a variety of obesity treatments available to women.

Obesity treatment includes the following options:

  • dietary therapy: the individual’s diet is modified and monitored. Caloric intake and the consumption of unhealthy foods (for example, those high in saturated fats) are reduced
  • physical therapy: the individual is introduced to a moderate exercise program, which is slowly and gradually built upon
  • behavior therapy: this type of obesity therapy includes deciphering the associations an individual identifies with eating different types of foods. A food diary is kept in order to determine why the individual eats certain foods
  • drug therapy. This type of therapy is typically used in conjunction with physical and dietary therapy
  • obesity surgery. Surgery, such as gastric bypass surgery, is recommended in severe cases of obesity

When starting obesity treatment, it is important to stay motivated and to take treatment step by step. Studies have shown that, if maintained, a weight loss of as little as 10 lbs. can have a positive effect on a person’s health.

For more information about obesity and other women’s health issues, check out our women’s health forum.

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