Should access to fertility treatment be determined by female body mass index?

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Resource allocation towards fertility treatment has been extensively debated in countries where fertility treatment is publicly-funded. Medical, social and ethical aspects have been evaluated prior to allocation of resources. Analysis of cost-effectiveness, risks and benefits and poor success rates have led to calls of restricting fertility treatment to obese women. In this debate article, we critically appraise the evidence underlying this issue and highlight the problems with such a policy. Poor success rate of treatment is unsubstantiated as there is insufficient evidence to link high body mass index (BMI) to reduction in live birth. Obstetric complications have a linear relationship with BMI but are significantly influenced by maternal age. The same is true for miscarriage rates which are influenced by the confounding factors of polycystic ovary syndrome and age. Studies have shown that the direct costs per live birth are no greater for overweight and obese women. With changing demographics over half the reproductive-age population is overweight or obese. Restricting fertility treatment on the grounds of BMI would cause stigmatization and lead to inequity, feelings of injustice and social tension as affluent women manage to bypass these draconian restrictions. Time lost and poor success of conventional weight loss strategies would jeopardize the chances of conception for many women.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)815-820
Number of pages6
JournalHuman Reproduction
Issue number4
Early online date3 Feb 2010
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2010


  • body mass index
  • fertility treatment
  • IVF


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