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The Making of Medicine

Losing Weight Doesn’t Help Pregnancy Odds

Women with obesity who are struggling to get pregnant are often advised by their doctors to lose weight. But a new study from our Daniel J. Haisenleder, PhD, and colleagues calls that advice into question.

The FIT-PLESE study, conducted at nine academic medical centers across the country, compared outcomes of women who went on intensive weight-loss programs versus women who simply exercised without trying to lose weight. Of the 188 women who completed a 16-week weight-loss program, 23 gave birth; of the 191 who completed the exercise-only program, 29 gave birth.

The women who went on the weight-loss program lost, on average, 7% of their body weight. The women on the exercise-only program typically maintained their weight.

While weight loss did not appear to boost fertility, it did have big benefits for the women's health in general: They saw a significant reduction in metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that increase the risk for stroke, diabetes, heart disease and other serious health conditions.

“Weight loss improved metabolic health in these subjects. Unfortunately the changes seen did not improve fertility,” Haisenleder told me. “Infertility within this population remains an important health issue, and will require further studies to address the problem in the future.”

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