The Effects of Obesity on The Menstrual Cycle

This article was medically reviewed by Op. Dr. Ahmet Şadi Kılınç

Reyap Hospital – Istanbul, Turkey

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Obesity affects the menstrual cycle through various mechanisms, primarily by causing hormonal imbalances. Excess adipose tissue increases estrogen production, leading to irregular menstrual cycles, heavy bleeding, or even amenorrhea (absence of menstruation). Additionally, obesity can cause insulin resistance, which can exacerbate conditions like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), further disrupting menstrual regularity.

Obesity and PCOS are closely linked. Obesity can worsen insulin resistance, a key feature of PCOS, leading to elevated insulin levels that affect ovarian function. This can result in the development of multiple ovarian cysts, irregular periods, and elevated androgens (male hormones). Women with PCOS often struggle with weight management, creating a cycle that exacerbates both conditions.

Yes, weight loss can significantly improve menstrual regularity. Studies show that losing even 5-10% of body weight can lead to better hormonal balance, improved insulin sensitivity, and reduced inflammation, all of which contribute to a more regular menstrual cycle. Weight loss can also enhance ovulation rates and overall fertility.

Chronic low-grade inflammation, common in obesity, can disrupt the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian (HPO) axis, which regulates the menstrual cycle. Elevated inflammatory markers like C-reactive protein (CRP) can interfere with hormone production and function, leading to irregular menstrual cycles. Additionally, inflammation can contribute to reproductive issues such as endometriosis, further complicating menstrual health.

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