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 surrogates, 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 measure of a person’s total body fat than just the number on a scale does. A higher BMI can be indicative of higher total body fat percentages, which is an important factor in assessing health risks 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 piece in looking at the big picture of your comprehensive health.
It is especially important to know if you are entering the surrogacy screening process- a BMI between 18-32 is a basic qualification and requirement to begin your initial application to partner as 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 outside this range. 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 within this range. 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.
A normal BMI falls between 18.5 and 25. A BMI between 25-30 is considered overweight, and a BMI over 30 is considered obese. A BMI lower than 18.5 is considered underweight. The table below is a great visual representation of how this breaks down for height and weight, with “normal BMI” represented by the lightest orange cells in the table.
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. 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 and weight (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 it is a crucial one in surrogacy.
Regardless of where your BMI falls, it can help as a starting point to determine 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.
We pride ourselves on our “proudly picky” attitude, which has shaped both our partnerships with clinics as well as our initial screening process. A BMI between 18-32 is a strict requirement to apply to be a surrogate with ConceiveAbilities. We hold ourselves to the standards and expectations set forth by the fertility clinics we partner with, so a BMI within this range is non-negotiable. It is important to be honest about your BMI when you begin your application and screening process. Other requirements to be a surrogate include:
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 is not an all-encompassing determination of your health. However, it is a requirement to begin the surrogate screening process with ConceiveAbilities as it provides an initial snapshot of overall health. Contact us to learn more!
All Things Conceivable is a blog dedicated to sharing the knowledge and expert opinions of the dedicated team at ConceiveAbilities, a Chicago-based egg donation and surrogacy agency.