If You Had to Lose Weight or Quit Smoking to Get Pregnant, Would You? 46% of Women Wouldn’t, Study Finds

It seems wild to me that any woman who badly wants to become a mother wouldn’t do whatever is necessary to make that happen, especially if they already deal with infertility issues. But a recent report in the Journal of Advanced Nursing found that 96 percent of women in an IVF preconception study faced lifestyle issues and health risks, but that nearly half of the women weren’t willing or prepared to change their habits. Why would women who are ready to go through the difficult process of IVF not be agreeable to changing even if just temporarily some of aspects of their lifestyle to better their chances of conception?

I’m a huge proponent of a woman’s right to do with her body as she wishes. If a woman has no issue with being overweight and doesn’t care about the foods she puts into her body, that is her choice. If a woman wants to smoke and potentially fill her lungs up with cancer, that’s her prerogative. But if a woman who wants to get pregnant knows that one or both of these habits might hinder her chances of becoming pregnant, or might even be the reason she hasn’t gotten pregnant, why would she continue them?

The Journal of Advanced Nursing reports that 30 percent of smokers included in the study refused to quit, even though the American Society for Reproductive Medicine states that “virtually all scientific studies support the conclusion that smoking has an adverse impact on fertility. The prevalence of infertility is higher, and the time it takes to conceive is longer, in smokers compared to nonsmokers.” Since the women involved in the preconception study were offered advice and strategies to improve lifestyle and since they were clearly serious about getting pregnant (why else would they be preparing for IVF?) it’s mind-boggling that such a large percentage refused to quit smoking. Sure, smoking is a hard addiction to kick, but it certainly can be done. And what better reason than for the life and health of your baby?

The numbers for women not willing to lose weight before undergoing IVF are only slightly better. Sixteen percent of the obese women included in the study had no motivation to lose weight for their IVF process, even though the Obesity Action Coalition reports “that women who are overweight or obese tend to have a more difficult time becoming pregnant than normal-weight women. Moreover, once pregnancy occurs, obese women have a higher rate of pregnancy loss.”

Combine the 30 and 16 percents and we find that close to half of the women facing fertility issues won’t make changes that could better their odds.

If these women are so serious about getting pregnant and personally, I have to believe they are because they have sought the help of fertility centers why in the world wouldn’t they do all that was necessary to increase their chances of starting a family?

I repeat this question because I desperately seek an answer. My wife and I are in the process of beginning IVF. The only infertility diagnosis we’ve received is called “male-factor infertility” (Yes, we were actually given that diagnosis and it couldn’t be more accurate), but I am undergoing much of the same process that women who have other infertility diagnoses undergo. I couldn’t imagine intentionally stacking any cards against us, which is just what these women who refuse to change their habits are doing.

It’s not terribly shocking that the study found that 96 percent of the women involved in IVF faced lifestyle issues and health risks, including bacterial and parasitic infections, alcohol use, and using medication without a prescription (as well as smoking and obesity). These factors have long been linked to infertility and/or fertility issues. But it is terribly shocking that nearly half of the women cared little to do anything about it.

Read the Journal of Advanced Nursing study here

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Click here for more information about infertility and smoking

Photo: JavierPsilocybin

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