A term you’re likely to see come up as you take a deeper dive into requirements for surrogates is “BMI,” or “body mass index.” With so much information at hand, questions are bound to arise such as: “What exactly IS a BMI? Is my BMI normal? Is BMI really a requirement for becoming a surrogate, or just a guideline?” The importance of BMI, how to calculate your own, and why it is essential for surrogates to fall within a specific BMI range are all key pieces of knowledge to have in mind as you begin your surrogacy journey.
Simply put, BMI, or body mass index, is a measurement that represents a relationship between a person’s height and weight. It is calculated by dividing an individual’s body weight by their height. While it is, of course, not the only factor in assessing overall health, BMI provides a more accurate estimate of a person’s total body fat than the number on a scale. A higher BMI can be indicative of higher amount of body fat as a percentage of total weight, which is an important factor in assessing health risks that can lead to dangerous pregnancies such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Other health concerns that can be associated with a higher BMI include:
In the same way that it is important to eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and have check-ins with your healthcare professional, it is important to know your BMI and understand the impact it can have on both long and short term health. While not a perfect indicator of potential health risks, BMI is a crucial part of the total picture of your comprehensive health.
It is especially important to know if you are entering the surrogacy screening process. A BMI below 35, and ideally below 30, is a starting qualification and requirement to be a surrogate with ConceiveAbilities. Although BMI is not the only way to determine a health or pregnancy risk, there are multiple health risks to both the surrogate and the baby that have been linked to a BMI above these values. Hypertension and subsequent circulation loss to the baby, gestational diabetes, plus sleep apnea and its associated links to heart failure and intrauterine growth restriction are just a few examples of why ConceiveAbilities requires all surrogates to have a BMI below these values at the time that their surrogacy journey begins. It is simply not worth risking the health of the women we work with as surrogates, or risking a healthy pregnancy, to sidestep this requirement.
According to the World Health Organization, a normal BMI falls between 18.5 and 25. A BMI between 25 to 30 is considered overweight, and a BMI over 30 is considered obese. A BMI lower than 18.5 is considered underweight.
Before you make any drastic lifestyle changes, it’s important to remember that BMI is calculated using only height and weight measurements. It does not take factors such as muscle mass into account; certain people such as athletes may have a high BMI even without having a high body fat percentage since muscle weighs more than fat. If you believe you fall into this category of people and may be at risk of being denied for surrogacy, please start the process by completing this form and we will look forward to talking with you more about your individual circumstances. BMI may also not be representative of obesity-related health risks with children, whose growth goes hand-in-hand with varying amounts of body fat at different stages of physical development. Most of the general population doesn’t fall into these categories, though, and knowing your BMI can be a powerful and informative tool to assess your risk for obesity-related health concerns.
The only pieces of information you need to calculate your BMI are your height (in inches) and weight (in pounds) - and maybe a calculator. The formula is simple:
BMI= (703 x weight in pounds)/(height in inches x height in inches)
For a person weighing 130 pounds and measuring 5 feet 6 inches in height, the calculation would look like this:
BMI= (703 X 130)/(66 X 66)
There are also resources available online to calculate your BMI without reliving your seventh-grade math class, like this BMI Calculator from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If you are considering surrogacy, it is key to keep in mind the associated health concerns of a high BMI while pregnant. There is a greater risk of gestational diabetes, for example, which means a higher chance of stress on the surrogate’s kidneys. Adult diabetes is even linked to being carried by a woman with gestational diabetes. BMI may not be the only component of a healthy person or a healthy pregnancy, but at ConceiveAbilities we know it's a crucial step when partnering with you to consider whether a surrogacy journey is a good option for you.
Regardless of where your BMI falls, it can help as a starting point to determine your current health needs, risks, and goals. If your BMI falls below 18.5, it may be an indicator that your body is not absorbing enough nutrients or that you are not eating enough calories to keep up with your lifestyle. Alternately, if your BMI is consistently within the range to be considered obese with no outlying factors, it can be a helpful guiding force to speak with your doctor or dietician about how to best meet your body’s health needs.
Reaching a BMI within the requirements is attainable. The CDC's guide for healthy weight loss outlines getting started, improving healthy eating habits and keeping the weight off. You may also consider finding a nutrition expert or personal trainer. There are also many fitness apps that can guide your fitness efforts.
95% of our surrogates achieve medical clearance from fertility clinics. Our surrogate requirements include:
Watch Dr. Angie Beltsos of Kindbody explain more about the requirements to be a surrogate.
It can be overwhelming to interpret the variety of opinions on BMI. It is helpful to remember that, at its most basic level, BMI is a simple formula that uses your height and weight to determine body fat. We recognize that it is not an all-encompassing determination of your health. At ConceiveAbilities, however, it is a starting point to help us build a picture of whether being a surrogate can be a healthy and successful experience for you. Even if you think you are disqualified to become a surrogate, we encourage you to still apply. There may be ways we can work together to help you achieve your dream of being a surrogate.
And, are you a woman who enjoyed a healthy and successful pregnancy? Do you have friends or family who have suffered from infertility or need assistance from someone else to build their family? Have you ever considered the role you could play in helping someone else build their family - as a surrogate? Learn more about the process of helping someone else's dream of building a family come true. We would love to talk with you.