Ovulation is an important process occurring in females of reproductive age -- and its absence not only affects your ability to get pregnant but also may signal the existence of certain health conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome. Although prescription treatments are available to help restore ovulation, it's essential that you work with your doctor to find this dysfunction's root cause. Regardless of your condition, being overweight or obese can be a major barrier to restoring ovulation. Take a significant step toward attaining proper reproductive function by losing excess weight.
The Ovulatory Process
Ovulation occurs when your ovaries release a mature egg into the fallopian tube, where it waits for fertilization by male sperm. If fertilization doesn't take place, the egg disintegrates into the thickened lining of your uterus and is shed during your menstrual cycle. Note, however, that you may still menstruate even if you're not ovulating. In turn, you may still ovulate even if you're not having a menstrual period. Oral contraceptives prevent pregnancy by stopping ovulation. The ovulatory process can be affected by a number of factors, including hormonal imbalances, illness and stress, according to the American Pregnancy Association.
Obesity and Ovulation
Being overweight can play a significant role in your body's inability to ovulate due to its effects on hormone levels. In addition to progesterone and estrogen, hormones often thought of as male hormones, called androgens, are involved in ovulation and menstruation. Obesity can affect the balance of these hormones, causing your body to produce too much androgens while not releasing enough pituitary hormones involved in egg release by the ovaries. This is a major issue if you suffer from a disease called polycystic ovary syndrome, which is more prevalent in obese women.
Weight Loss Benefits
Weight loss is an important part of restoring ovulation if you're overweight or obese. Losing excess weight can lower your level of circulating insulin, which in turn reduces androgen production. Avoid fast, drastic weight loss; it's unhealthy and isn't necessary for improving reproductive function. Obese women who made lifestyle changes -- including a healthy diet and regular physical activity -- experienced weight loss and a decrease in insulin resistance, according to a 1999 study in "The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism." As a result, these participants had restored ovulation.
In conjunction with lifestyle changes, you may need to take prescribed medications to induce ovulation. Doctors typically use hormonal therapy.The drug clomiphene often is used to restore ovulation, particularly for infertile women trying to get pregnant. If you have polycystic ovary syndrome, your doctor may recommend metformin, a drug that's usually prescribed for diabetics. Metformin lowers insulin levels; it not only helps restore ovulation and regular menstruation but also can help you lose weight, according to the Mayo Clinic.
- American Pregnancy Association; Understanding Ovulation; March 2011
- "The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism"; Restoration of Reproductive Potential by Lifestyle Modification in Obese Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Role of Insulin Sensitivity and Luteinizing Hormone; M.M. Huber-Buchholz, et al.; April 1999
- Drugs.com; Clomid; April 2009