How Weight Loss Surgery Affects Pregnancy

weight loss surgery improves chance of pregnancy and baby's healthWomen in their 20s and 30s who have weight loss surgery surgery are often surprised to find they are pregnant very soon after surgery. Although an improved love life may be a partial explanation, research indicates that bariatric surgery can actually increase a woman’s chances of conceiving.  

Obesity not only is related to serious health conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, but also to infertility. For obese women of childbearing age, weight loss surgery can not only help them shed excess pounds and overcome health issues, but also increase their chances of conceiving and make them likelier to have healthier children.

Obesity makes it more difficult to conceive, in part, because excess body weight alters hormone production. Mary Jane Minkin, MD, an OB-GYN in private practice in New Haven, Connecticut, and a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Yale University School of Medicine, notes, “Many, many women who are massively obese have a significant problem with ovulation.”

Research has given us a detailed understanding of how obesity impacts fertility. A study published last spring in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism suggested that women with obesity experience changes in the tissue around their ovaries and in the fluid surrounding their eggs. By analyzing this fluid, the researchers were able to determine that levels of insulin, lactate, triglycerides, and inflammation-related proteins, also known as CRPs, were positively correlated with body mass index; in other words, as the subject’s weight increased so did the levels of certain hormones that are critical during conception and pregnancy.

Finally, this study found that the quantity of the sex hormone-binding globulin, or SHBG, was lower among obese women than it was among their counterparts. This is significant, because higher SHBG tends to correlate with greater fertility.

Although the study was conducted among fewer than 100 women, it sheds light on how abdominal fat, ovarian function and pregnancy are intimately connected.

But obesity doesn’t just make it more difficult to get pregnant. It also makes pregnancy itself, once achieved, more dangerous. Women who are obese and pregnant are considered high-risk and more likely to develop any number of serious conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, and preeclampsia. In contrast, those women who have had weight loss surgery for morbid obesity tend to have much healthier pregnancies than if they had maintained their pre-surgery weight.

If you are considering weight loss surgery and would like to learn more about the impact of bariatric surgery on fertility, please contact the office to schedule a consultation.

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