Women overweight when pregnant could impact fertility in sons, but not daughters

AARHUS, Denmark — Women who are overweight during pregnancy are more likely to birth sons with fertility issues, according to a study out of Denmark. The research showed no correlation between infertility in daughters and maternal weight, however.

Infertility, described as the inability to conceive a child for over a year, has affected roughly 15% of couples worldwide. This is equivalent to 48.5 million couples in the world. Studies have shown that male reproductive issues led to approximately 30% of infertility cases.

For this research, scientists used data from 9,232 adults, both men and women, of Danish descent. Approximately 9.4% of the participants suffered from infertility. Researchers found that women who had a BMI over 25 kg/m² before conception increased their son’s risk of infertility by 1.4 times. This was compared to women with a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 kg/m² prior to getting pregnant.

“Infertility is a global public health issue, and it is important that research focus on addressing risk factors,” says lead author Linn Arendt, a postdoc at Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital. “We know that children born to mothers in the overweight or obesity weight range face higher risks of several adverse outcomes, both in the short and long term. These findings add to evidence that weight during pregnancy may also affect male future reproductive health; however, the findings need to be corroborated in future studies.”

The 2020 research paper is published online in the journal Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica.