Bariatric Surgery And Pregnancy: A Good Combination?

There’s been a flurry of articles this week regarding pregnancy after bariatric surgery. Researchers looked at both gastric bypass and Lap Band® patients to see if their pregnancies were negatively affected.

It’s only been a few days since research hit that showed getting pregnant after gastric bypass to be easier. This research goes one step further to see how the prior bariatric surgery impacts the pregnancy.

And the findings are good!

Here’s how an article in the Los Angeles Times (Weight Loss Surgery Bodes Well For Pregnancy) described the findings:

Women in their child-bearing years have increasingly turned to bariatric surgery to lose weight, but without much information on how such surgical procedures might affect fertility or pregnancy.

Now researchers have found that obese women who undergo weight-loss surgery before becoming pregnant are less likely to have pregnancy-related health problems, such as gestational diabetes and high blood pressure, than obese women who don’t have the surgery. In fact, their rates of such problems are almost as low as those of women who have never been obese.

Further, women who have a weight-loss operation are less likely to have babies that are born prematurely or are born overweight or underweight.

In a report published Nov. 19 in the Journal of the American Medical Assn., researchers at Rand, UCLA, the Greater Los Angeles VA Health Care System and elsewhere analyzed 75 health-related studies of women who had undergone bariatric surgery.

Among the findings:

* Nutritional deficiencies during pregnancy are rare after two types of weight-loss surgery, specifically gastric bypass and gastric banding. They’re more common in women who have biliopancreatic diversion. (WebMD offers an overview of such procedures, their risks, their benefits and related information.)

* Fertility rates might improve after weight-loss surgery, but then, they improve after nonsurgical weight loss as well.

* Surgery-related complications, such as internal hernia, can occur during pregnancy, but they’re rare.

More research is needed, but overall the findings bode well for women who want to undergo dramatic weight loss and to have children.

To put these findings in more context, the researchers note that bariatric surgery increased 800% from 1998 to 2005. Between 2003 and 2005 alone, women ages 18 to 45 made up almost half (49%) of all inpatient bariatric surgery patients.

So it would seem you can add a healthier pregnancy to the list of bariatric surgery benefits.

One thing to note: The article above just said that “nutritional deficiencies are rare” following gastric bypass and lap band procedures. Other articles on the study have had more to say on this topic.

Here’s a snippet from an article on MedPageToday.com: (Bariatric Surgery May Decrease Pregnancy Complication Risks)

Also, severe nutritional deficiencies were reported in pregnancies following this procedure.

Most of these studies attributed the deficiency to nonadherence, because women are typically instructed to take vitamin supplements following surgery.

“Studies of consecutive patients that systematically monitor adherence and nutritional status are needed,” the researchers said.

There always seems to be “more research needed” – nearly every study I’ve ever read has had that line in it somewhere. But for now, it seems that getting pregnant after bariatric surgery is not only easier, it’s a whole lot healthier than getting pregnant while still obese.

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