Obesity surgery and pregnancy

As the number of patients having obesity surgery increases then this is likely to include women of a childbearing age. As a result of this, the issuer of obesity surgery and pregnancy has come to the fore.

Is pregnancy an option after surgery? Should I even consider becoming pregnant after surgery? How long should I wait before stopping contraception? These and many other questions are being asked by women who have excess weight but will still like to start a family.

Some may consider that being obese means that pregnancy is not an option; post-surgery or at any time after that. However, undergoing obesity surgery does NOT mean that you can never have a baby.

Doctors would recommend that you wait for at least 18 months before starting a family. For example, if you have undergone gastric bypass, or some other restrictive/malabsorptive procedure then you will be advised to wait up to 2 years following surgery before considering pregnancy. The reason for this is that weight loss tends to be at it’s greatest in the first year and a bit less in the second year after surgery. After that time it settles down to a stable level which is then an ideal time for pregnancy.

If you have had a gastric band then the waiting period is a lot shorter. You are looking at a wait of at least 6 months before pregnancy.

Another factor and one that is vitally important is that being obese can affect fertility. Many obese women find that they are infertile as a result of excessive weight. Weight loss surgery will improve or even solve a range of obesity-related conditions which includes infertility. As weight is lost following surgery then fertility is vastly improved which means pregnancy is possible. It also reduces the risk of a Caesarean section.

Pregnancy before surgery

Experts do not recommend becoming pregnant whilst carrying excess weight. This places a greater strain on the baby and the mother as well and can result in a range of related health problems such as pre-eclampsia.

Pregnancy after surgery

This is possible although you are advised to wait until 18 months has passed (gastric bypass etc) or 6 months (gastric band). Weight loss surgery will result in a lowering of your blood pressure and blood sugar levels as well as improving your overall health.

Pregnancy does mean weight gain so you will be constantly monitored to see that you don’t put on too much weight. If you have had a gastric bypass or a duodenal switch then nutrition is even more important. You will already be taking a daily nutritional supplement and you may have to add to this by taking vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, folic acid and iron.

If you have had a gastric band then this can be adjusted to take into account your pregnancy. For example, one of the symptoms of pregnancy is morning sickness which causes nausea and vomiting. The band can be deflated to help reduce this sensation.

If you are thinking of starting a family then discuss this with your surgeon and aftercare team.

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