This week, we’re helping to raise understanding aboutinfertility by recognizing National Infertility Awareness Week. One in eight couples of childbearing age is diagnosed with infertility, and for women, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a leading cause. It is a hormonal imbalance accompanied by two of three characteristics: overproduction of androgens (male hormones); irregular menstrual cycles; and an ultrasound that shows ovaries with tiny follicles that look like cysts but are not. PCOS affects six to eight percent of women of childbearing age.
The signs of PCOS vary greatly among women. Some have excessive hair growth in a male pattern, as well as weight gain, acne, and scalp hair loss. Others haveinsulin resistance that may lead to diabetes, with lipid disorders and high blood pressure. The good news is that women with PCOS can and do get pregnant, but conception often means an unpleasant ordeal of tests, procedures, cycle tracking, and medications, not to mention cost.
Lifestyle interventions (i.e. healthy eating and activity) that help control weight are a cornerstone of PCOS treatment. Having too much body fat and eating too many carbohydrates aggravates insulin resistance and hormonal imbalance. The diet for PCOS should have only the number of calories that it takes to maintain a healthy weight and carbohydrates should not contribute more than 40 to 50 percent of total calories. Read Full Post >
It’s one of the most natural desires a woman can have – to start a family. And when Sarah Nittaexperienced multiple miscarriages, it forced her to look at the reasons why, with her weight being a primary culprit. Her starting weight on Biggest Loser season 11 was 261 pounds, a lot for her small 5-foot-six-inch frame to carry. “My goal going into this was to get myself healthy enough to have a child,” she said in a post-elimination interview. Focused on getting to her finale weight goal, she said after that her first goal is to “try to carry a healthy pregnancy.”
Like most women, she has concerns about the pregnancy weight gain, but is already educating herself on the best way to go about that, citing the recommended amount of weight a woman can healthily gain for a pregnancy (about 35 pounds). She has spoken with her trainers and Biggest Loser’s Dr. Huizenga and they tell her “exercise is such an important part of pregnancy.” She also hopes to have more success in losing the weight and maintaing her new-found healthy habits after her pregnancy. “If I can’t get pregnant, then I’ve done my part [losing the weight], and we’ll try other options,” she said.
Listen now to our post-elimination interview with Sarah. She opens up about the perceived retaliation by her black team in sending her home and inadvertently being responsible for Arthur’s elimination in week 10. “I was very surprised at the decision” she says. She’s also working out at the Tapout gym in Las Vegas, with the same trainer who prepped Koli Palau and Mark Pinhasovich for the at-home prize wins. “That’s exactly what I’m shooting for,” she says of her decision to train with Robert McMullen.
There are several reasons why overweight and obese women may not want to take a hormonal birth-control. It may be for health reasons, like furthering the risks of high blood pressure, heart disease, or blood clots. Many decline to take birth control for religious reasons. Natural Family Planning, or NFP, has recently gained momentum, particularly among Catholics. NFP is the only form of birth control condoned by the Roman Catholic Church other than abstinence.
Further, the birth control pill is much less effective at preventing pregnancies in overweight and obese women. A study conducted in Washington state found that the risk of unwanted pregnancy among women taking the pill to be 60 percent higher among overweight women, and 70 percent higher among obese women. Other studies suggested that the same thing may also be true of hormone-based birth control, such as implants or the patch.
Religious reasons aside, some women who cannot take the pill for weight-related health reasons may consider turning to Natural Family Planning, also known as the rhythm method and fertility awareness. NFP includes knowledge of one’s menstrual cycle(calendar method), tracking one’s basal body temperature (BBT), and observing cervical mucus (Billings method). These are all indicators of when one is ovulating. However, the rhythm method is only about 75 to 87 percent effective (WebMD). That means there’s a one-in-four chance of pregnancy every time you have sex without another form of birth control.