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Thursday, June 24, 2021

Does fertility treatment lead to weight gain?

Pregnancy weight gain and postpartum weight gain is a major cause for difficulty in conceiving the second child. It also increases risk of diabetes and other diseases. Staying fit physically and mentally is an important prerequisite for fertility.

New Delhi |
May 13, 2021 1:43:42 pm
fertilityPatients and their partners are strongly advised to get a negative RT-PCR test report before commencing treatment. (Source: getty images/file)

By Dr Kanchana Devi

Taking treatment for fertility-related issues can be painful, emotionally taxing, and expensive as well. As a fertility specialist, I am often asked the question, “I am gaining weight and is this because of the fertility treatments?” It is a myth and adds to the pre-existing anxiety and further delay in conception.

Does fertility treatment really increase body weight?

Body weight is contributed majorly by water (70 percent) and the rest by fat, protein and minerals. Any factor that increases any of these components leads to an increase in body weight. It is very common to hear from patients that their body weight increased subsequent to treatment cycles only. While 50 percent of women who come with polycystic ovaries are overweight or obese even at their first presentation, many gain weight in the due course of the treatment or during pregnancy.

What are the reasons for it?

It is important to understand that every person is different, and not everyone reacts to fertility drugs the same way, so it’s impossible to predict how a specific fertility drug will affect someone.

Fertility drugs used in simple protocols like ovulation induction or IUI increase the body hormone called estrogen, which has water retention properties. This is similar to the heaviness a person feels in the late half of the menstrual cycle. This effect is increased many times in IVF cycles due to increase in the number of follicles that are induced. Once the hormone levels fall after the cycle, the water retention also recedes and weight is stabilised. This, in other words, is a reversible weight gain and does not happen in all women.

As against the reversible weight gain discussed above, some may have true weight gain that is due to an increase in body fat. This is the result of a decrease in physical activity. Women generally feel that reducing physical activity helps to improve the chance of pregnancy. Women also may take a break from work for the sake of treatment and when it is combined with increased food intake either intentionally or part of the anxiety coping mechanisms, this leads to increase in body weight. It is important to remember at this point that bed rest following treatment cycles can actually reduce pregnancy rate and it can even lead to complications due to increased tendency of blood to clot due to hormonal changes.

In the past, ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), a condition that used to occur during IVF procedures was reported in many women. In this condition, the ovaries swell and fluid leaks into the body leading to weight gain. This condition is more common in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome who are going through fertility treatments. However, with the advancement in technologies, the OHSS condition no longer occurs.

Demystifying Myths

Gaining weight during IVF is common, but not every woman experiences this.

Bloating does explain some of this weight gain, but fortunately, this settles with time.

Changes in activity levels are the likely reason that some women gain weight.

Stress and mood changes can be a trigger for over-eating during IVF treatment.

When it comes to food, it is much better to focus on eating healthier, rather than eating less to deal with any weight gain.


Researchers have consistently proved that fertility treatment does not lead to true weight gain. If you’re undergoing infertility treatment, it’s worth noting that the process in general — and the drugs in particular — may leave you feeling moody and blue.

Have an open dialogue: Engage in an open dialogue with the clinician about it.

Forming a support group can reduce anxiety.

Couples starting their fertility journey can do so continuing with their work schedule. Even women who are on a diet and exercise schedule for weight reduction must continue their efforts during treatment.

Breaking from exercise routines would undo all the benefits gained till then. These practices hold good not only during treatment but also during pregnancy.

Pregnancy weight gain and postpartum weight gain is a major cause for difficulty in conceiving the second child. It also increases risk of diabetes and other diseases.

Staying fit physically and mentally is an important prerequisite for fertility. The belief that treatment cycles would increase body weight is a pure myth.

(The writer is Senior Consultant, Fertility, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Chennai.)

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