Obesity in men and women has a significant negative impact on fertility, it increases infertility, and it also increases pregnancy complications. More Americans than ever before carry excess body weight that jeopardizes their health. The current obesity epidemic isn’t just limited to the United States; many developed countries are showing similar trends as their diets and lifestyles become more like life in the US. And obesity in pregnancy is increasing both in the US and in Europe.

Obesity and the Body Mass Index

The body mass index (BMI) measures the ratio between a person’s height and weight to determine how much body fat a person carries. Medical professionals use the BMI, which is also found on numerous websites for personal use.

The BMI includes four classifications for assessing adults, male and female, who are 20 years old or older. Once a BMI calculation has been made, its number determines state of health:

  • 18.5 to 24.9 points = normal weight
  • 25 to 29.9 = overweight
  • 30 and higher = obesity
  • 40 and higher = extreme obesity

Women and Weight

Excess body fat has an estrogenic effect on the body, influencing how much estrogen the body produces and how the estrogen is processed. This effect is the same in overweight men as well as women. In women, it can cause the menstrual cycle to stop, rendering the woman infertile. Heavy women are often urged to lose weight before trying to conceive.

Obesity and Pregnancy

Excess weight affects pregnancy, too. Overweight pregnant women are at greater risk for many complications including miscarriage, cesarean delivery, gestational diabetes and other health complications. 

In many households, the woman is the driving force behind family diet and exercise habits. Children mimic what their parents do so it is extremely important to establish healthy eating habits when children are infants and toddlers. Learning from a mother to embrace a healthy diet and enjoy regular exercise often means the children will grow into healthier adults with reduced risk of many chronic medical conditions that plague overweight adults.

Obesity Prevalence in the US

Findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, conducted in 2009 and 2010, indicate:

  • More than two-thirds of all American adults are either overweight or obese.
  • One-third are obese.
  • 1 in every 20 adults is extremely obese.
  • Between ages 6 and 19, one-third of America’s children are either overweight or obese.
  • 1 in every 6 children aged 6 to 19 is obese.

Weight and Wage Penalties

A study published by the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates white women in the workplace gained considerable weight between 1981 and 2000:

  • 8.6% of working white women in the US were overweight in 1981.
  • 4.1% were obese.
  • 24.8% were overweight in 2000.
  • 25.6% were obese.

The trend has continued upward since 2000. While this trend is alarming for the physical well-being of these women, it comes with economic consequences as well. The study found white women carrying excess weight don’t make as much money as white women of healthy weight. The lower pay scale begins when the overweight woman is young and continues throughout her career, with earnings dropping as she ages or gains more weight.

The study involved white women only but this wage penalty is expected to affect women of other races and ethnic minorities as well.


Sources:

  1. Overweight and Obesity Statistics. WIN: Weight-control Information Network. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. 24 Jul 2014. Web. 22 Oct. 2014.
  2. Women’s Increasing Wage Penalties from Being Overweight and Obese (pdf). BLS Working Papers. US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. Dec. 2007. Web. 22 Oct. 2014.