A novel system dynamics model of female obesity and fertility

Am J Public Health. 2014 Jul;104(7):1240-6. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2014.301898. Epub 2014 May 15.


Objectives: Our objective was to create a system dynamics model specific to weight gain and obesity in women of reproductive age that could inform future health policies and have the potential for use in preconception interventions targeting obese women.

Methods: We used our system dynamics model of obesity in women to test various strategies for family building, including ovulation induction versus weight loss to improve ovulation. Outcomes included relative fecundability, postpartum body mass index, and mortality.

Results: Our system dynamics model demonstrated that obese women who become pregnant exhibit increasing obesity levels over time with elevated morbidity and mortality. Alternatively, obese women who lose weight prior to pregnancy have improved reproductive outcomes but may risk an age-related decline in fertility, which can affect overall family size.

Conclusions: Our model highlights important public health issues regarding obesity in women of reproductive age. The model may be useful in preconception counseling of obese women who are attempting to balance the competing risks associated with age-related declines in fertility and clinically meaningful weight loss.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Fertility / physiology*
  • Fertility Agents, Female / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Risk Factors
  • Weight Gain
  • Weight Loss / physiology*
  • Women's Health


  • Fertility Agents, Female