In the last few years, weight-loss surgery has become more common. Celebrities such as Carnie Wilson and Al Roker have spoken publicly about having these operations and their reasons for doing so. The number of women in their childbearing years having this surgery is rising.
The most common weight-loss surgery is called "gastric bypass." In this operation, the surgeon staples the stomach across the top and leaves a small pouch that can hold only a small amount of food. Then the surgeon cuts a part of the intestine and sews it onto the pouch. This procedure limits the patient's ability to absorb calories from food.
Early reports of women who became pregnant after weight-loss surgery warned of possible complications. Problems included bleeding in the woman's stomach or intestines, anemia and limited growth of the baby in the uterus.
More recent studies are more reassuring. They suggest that weight-loss surgery may help protect obese women and their babies from these health problems during pregnancy:
- Gestational diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Overly large babies
- Cesarean delivery
For women who are thinking about weight-loss surgery and may get pregnant in the future
- Weight-loss surgery is not for everyone who is overweight. It is for people who are extremely obese and who have health problems as a result.
- Because weight-loss surgery is still fairly new, we know very little about the long-term effects of this surgery.
- Talk to your health care providers, including the medical professional who will deliver your baby. Learn about the risks and benefits of weight-loss procedures. Risks include gallstones, bleeding ulcers, and even death. Be sure you are well informed before your make your decision.
For women who have had weight-loss surgery
- Since you will lose weight rapidly right after surgery, avoid getting pregnant for 12-18 months after your operation. Rapid weight loss may deprive a fetus of the nutrients it needs to grow and be healthy.
- Talk to your health care provider before you get pregnant.
- Be aware of your need for vitamins and minerals. Weight-loss operations can result in low levels of iron, folate, vitamin B12 and calcium. All of these are needed for a healthy pregnancy. Pregnant women who have had weight-loss surgery may need to take vitamin pills.
- Some women have a type of weight-loss surgery that uses a gastric band. This band is used to make a small pouch for food in the upper part of
the stomach. If you have a gastric band, speak to your surgeon, preferably before you get pregnant. The surgeon may need to adjust the band for pregnancy.
This article is based, in part, on Committee Opinion 315 (September 2005) produced by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
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Last reviewed December 2005