The body mass index is a calculation of a person’s weight divided by height. Doctors may use the BMI as a screening for health risks. People who have a BMI between 18.5-24.9 are considered within a healthy weight range. Any BMI below 18.5 falls into the underweight category. Just like being overweight can come with health risks, being underweight can too.
What are the risks of being underweight?
Not everyone who has a low BMI is unhealthy, just as not everyone with a high BMI is unhealthy. Having a low BMI, however, can increase a person’s risk for:
- Malnutrition or vitamin deficiencies
- Weakened immune system
- Surgery complications
- Growth and develop concerns
- Irregular periods
The link between low BMI and fertility
Women who are underweight are more likely to have irregular periods or amenorrhea. Amenorrhea is the absence of periods altogether. Not getting a period can be a symptom of not ovulating. Women with low BMIs can get pregnant, but women who are not getting a period will almost definitely have more trouble getting pregnant.
What can I do to boost my fertility?
Diet, exercise, sleep, and stress are all the crucial lifestyle factors that can affect fertility. Women who are underweight should focus particularly on getting enough nutrient-dense food. Moving regularly is a good thing, but overexercise can lead to worsening fertility. Opt instead for medium-impact movements such as walking, swimming, or hiking. Aim for eight hours of sleep each night and work on managing stress with healthy coping strategies.
When to see a doctor
Women who can’t get pregnant after 6-12 months of trying should see a healthcare provider. Women who aren’t getting a period and want to get pregnant should speak with a healthcare provider as well. Being underweight doesn’t just make getting pregnant harder. A low BMI can also make having a healthy pregnancy more challenging. Women who don’t maintain a healthy weight may be more likely to miscarry, have pregnancy complications, or give birth prematurely. For peace of mind and the best results, speak with a healthcare provider about how weight can affect pregnancy.