For women struggling to get pregnant, nothing can be more frustrating or heartbreaking than finally making the leap to fertility treatments like in vitro. Unless, of course, they take that step…and are then told they need to lose weight, first. Which may soon be the case for our neighbors to the North. This weekend, the New York Times reports, the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society will be discussing the possibility of implementing new rules, which would require obese women to lose weight before seeking in vitro.
Of course, this decision is sure to raise the hackles of many activists and advocates, and some have already begun to decry the measure as being discriminatory. But, as one doctor stated in the Times article, the health risks for obese women (and their unborn children) are very, very real.
Obesity has been linked to infertility for years, which means many more obese women are seeking treatments to help them get pregnant. And even when in vitro of other fertility treatments are successful, for women with a BMI of more than 35, additional risks and complications aren’t speculation, and they aren’t rooted in discrimintation–they’re genuine public health concerns. Which means that doctors (you know, the ones who are supposed to “do no harm”?) who help obese women get pregnant may also hurting them and their children in the long run.
Pregnancy in women with very high pre-pregnancy BMIs has been known for years to increase the risks of gestational diabetes, neural disorders like spina bifida, as well as miscarriage. And should a C-section need to be performed, the risks of excessive blood loss, clots, and infections for the mother are much higher, as well.
In the United States, adult obesity is known to be a problem. But it’s sort of a hot potato–no one actually wants to touch it. It’s a sensitive subject for many, which makes many solutions for this public health crisis seem downright hurtful. An approach like the one that Canada is considering taking, then, may seem like a surprising, sweeping move.
But are doctors who allow obese women to try in vitro, and later on, experience painful, complicated pregnancies, and possibly give birth to unhealthy children, really doing what’s best for their patients?
What do you think? Should obese women be counseled to lose weight before seeking fertility treatments? Tell us in the comments.