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New study suggests link between excessive weight and reduced embryo quality

A new study suggests that there are major differences in the early development of embryos in overweight and obese women, compared to women with a normal weight. The researchers found that the eggs of overweight and obese women are also smaller, which may reduce the likelihood of a successful pregnancy.

The study was conducted at the HYMS Centre for Cardiovascular and Metabolic Research at the University of Hull in the United Kingdom, and published in Human Reproduction. The study examined 368 fertilized eggs from 58 different women with a range of Body Mass Index (BMI) scores. Eggs from overweight or obese women were smaller and less likely to reach the crucial “blastocyst” stage around 5 days after fertilization, than the eggs from normal weight women. Embryos from overweight and obese women reached the blastocyst stage approximately 17 hours faster than embryos from women of normal weight. This faster development meant that fewer cells were formed in the blastocysts, which could affect the placenta – a critical support system for the growing baby. The embryos from overweight and obese women in this study also had a significantly reduced intake of glucose which is needed for early stage embryo development, and showed signs of metabolic changes in some of the amino acids that are needed for the healthy development of cells, muscles, and tissues.

According to Janet Fyle, professional policy advisor at the Royal College of Midwives:

“This research supports and reaffirms our advice about the potentially negative effects of obesity on pregnancy and the developing baby… there is a strong public health message here to be given to women who may be planning to have a baby. It is about the need to ensure women are healthy and not overweight, not just during pregnancy, but before..”

Read more about the relationship between weight and fertility here and here. 

Read more about the study here.

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