New treatment may help thin women become pregnant without IVF

A new hormonal treatment may help women who are experiencing infertility because of low body fat to start a family without having to undergo IVF. One in 10 athletes, ballerinas, and gymnasts and 1 in 100 women in the general population experience hypothalamic amenorrhea – where their periods stops – because they have lost a significant amount of body fat due to intensive exercising or dieting. This makes it more difficult to become pregnant naturally.

With this new treatment, the hormone kisspeptin is injected in order to restart the reproductive process without having to take a break from exercise or to undergo more invasive and costly treatments like IVF. Dr. Channa Jayasena, one of the researchers studying the new hormonal treatment at Imperial College London said:

“In the short term, infusions of kisspeptin can restore the pulses of luteinising hormone essential for female fertility. It could provide an attractive and less costly alternative to IVF.”

However, critics worry that this treatment could encourage women who are anorexic or severely underweight to conceive a pregnancy that their bodies may not be able to maintain. The Society for Endocrinology in the UK issued the following statement:

“Women who exercise intensely stop their periods for a good reason: their bodies are not ready for the huge amount of energy needed to take an embryo through a pregnancy to a healthy baby without stealing energy stores from the mother. If this technique was used in women with anorexia they could conceive, but we don’t know how well the baby would develop or if it would harm the mother.”

Read more about weight and fertility here and here. 

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