Metabolism can impact a woman's fertility

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by KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on February 7, 2014 at 12:20 PM

Updated Friday, Feb 7 at 4:07 PM

Women are often told their weight is preventing them from conceiving, and to get pregnant, they need to lose weight. But the real problem is often metabolic, and dieting can actually make matters worse.

Tracy and Drew Edwards are still in the honeymoon phase of their marriage. But even before they said "I Do," Tracy knew she'd have some trouble getting pregnant.

She wasn't ovulating, and for years, doctors told her it was because she had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. They told her she needed to lose weight, so she went on extreme diets and exercised. When that didn't work, doctors prescribed fertility drugs. 

It wasn't until she went to Dr. Emily Cooper, founder and Director of Seattle Performance Medicine, that she discovered her years of dieting were making her situation worse. 

"We did blood tests that showed [Tracy] was in what I call “diet fog”. Because she had dieted and exercised so much in the past, her brain thought she was starving," Dr. Cooper said. "When the brain thinks you’re starving, it won’t allow the body to become pregnant. It’s the body’s way of protecting itself. We see this same condition in some extreme athletes and patients with anorexia."

For Tracy to reverse this, she had to stop dieting and cut back on her workouts. But the change didn't happen overnight. Dr. Cooper said it takes a while for the body to recover, and everyone's metabolism responds differently.

"Her metabolism is perking up now and the hormones that regulate her ovulation have improved tremendously and have begun to normalize," Dr. Cooper said. "By stopping the diets and greatly reducing exercise, her estrogen level rose by 10 times. I'm hoping that Tracy will become happily pregnant soon."

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