Effects of Bariatric Surgery on Pregnancy

Most bariatric surgeons recommend that patients wait between 18 to 24 months before getting pregnant after bariatric surgery. Different types of surgery, including gastric banding, LAP-BAND surgery and the duodenal switch procedure, can change the way the body absorbs food and nutrients, and may also have an effect on the woman’s fertility rate. If you are of childbearing age and considering undergoing bariatric surgery, consider the following facts:

Pregnancy Complications After Bariatric Surgery

Rapid weight loss that occurs for up to two years after the bariatric surgery procedure can have an impact on the development of a healthy fetus. Fast weight loss can cause nutritional deficiencies that need to be addressed before the woman can conceive. Many women who undergo bariatric procedures need to eat a special diet, take nutritional supplements, and learn how to stabilize their weight before they are healthy enough to have a baby. The bariatric surgeon may work with a registered dietitian to ensure the patient can achieve and maintain a healthy weight for the long-term.

Fertility Rates After Bariatric Surgery

Some women do experience a boost in fertility after undergoing a weight loss procedure. For many, the infertility issues associated with obesity are resolved after weight loss surgery, and the woman can enjoy a higher fertility rate for the rest of her childbearing years. It’s important to note that taking oral contraceptives after bariatric surgery may not be as effective as it was before the procedure. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that there is an increased risk of oral contraception failure after bariatric surgery and this is linked to malabsorption. The Department also points out that bariatric surgery should not be considered a treatment for infertility.

Pregnancy Weight Gain After Bariatric Surgery

Many women do regain some of the weight lost after bariatric surgery, and may be at risk for gaining a lot of weight if they get pregnant shortly after their procedure. Since women do need to increase their caloric intake to accommodate for the baby, it can be difficult to adjust the diet to avoid excess weight gain. A registered dietitian or nutritionist can help the patient create a specialized menu that addresses all the nutritional needs of the expectant mother and child, and also prevents excess weight gain. Women are also advised to exercise regularly to maintain a healthy weight throughout their pregnancy.

Nutritional Deficiencies During Pregnancy

Women who undergo malabsorptive surgeries are at risk for nutritional deficiencies during pregnancy. Inadequate nutrition can pose several risks during pregnancy, and it can be difficult for bariatric patients to absorb many of the much-needed nutrients including folate, calcium, vitamin B12 and iron during their term. Prenatal vitamins, nutritional supplements and a healthy diet can help support a healthy pregnancy. If the patient has undergone gastric banding surgery, the bariatric surgeon may need to adjust the band or deflate it completely to ensure the woman is getting the nutrients she needs.

If you want to get pregnant after undergoing bariatric surgery or are thinking about a weight loss procedure during your childbearing years, set up a consultation with a bariatric surgeon in your area. Your surgeon will be able to discuss the risks, benefits and complications associated with the weight loss surgery, and guide you through the recovery and weight loss process.