Undergoing weight loss surgery is a life-changing decision, one that can have far-reaching implications for your long-term health. Many women wonder whether they can safely get pregnant after weight loss surgery. The answer is yes! Pregnancy after bariatric surgery is common, but there are a few things that you should know about expanding your family after surgery.
Weight Loss Surgery Has Been Shown to Boost Fertility
One of the major benefits of bariatric surgery is that many women get a boost in their fertility. Women who are obese often struggle to conceive due to conditions like PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) and other reproductive abnormalities. Many women start ovulating regularly for the first time in years, making conceiving a pregnancy easier. Doctors recommend a course of birth control in the first 18 months after surgery for all women due to the high likelihood of becoming pregnant.
Most doctors advise waiting for 12-18 months before attempting to get pregnant after bariatric surgery. By this point, your weight will have stabilized and your body will be more efficient at absorbing and using the nutrients the baby needs for healthy growth. One of the most common side effects of pregnancy early after bariatric surgery is pre-term labor or infants who are small for their gestational age. Waiting for the full 18 months or longer is one of the best ways to ensure a healthy pregnancy and baby.
Because even small amounts of weight loss can boost fertility, many women are surprised at how quickly they become pregnant after surgery. Between the pre-operative diet and the post-operative period, many women lose just enough weight to make getting pregnant easier.
Nutritional Deficiencies and Post-Surgical Pregnancy
One of the most significant challenges of pregnancy after surgery is nutritional deficiency. Staying compliant with your post-surgical medications is crucial, as both you and the growing baby will need the right amounts of the vitamins and minerals you need for optimal health. Many women suffer from vitamin and iron deficiencies after surgery, so it pays to stay on top of your medication regime before, during and after the pregnancy.
Your doctor may order additional tests, including nutritional deficiency testing to ensure you are getting the right nutrients for a healthy pregnancy. In addition, the doctor might choose to assign a nutritionist to your care team.
Bariatric Surgery Can Encourage Baby-Making
Your body will undergo significant changes after surgery. These changes are both physical and psychological, and can contribute to increased fertility. There may be drastic changes to your appearance with the sudden weight loss. In the beginning of the weight loss journey, many women experience a noticeable spike in libido. Obesity can cause a decrease in sex drive, and surgery often reverses these effects. The drop in weight after gastric sleeve or bypass can return these levels to normal, leading to a major spike in libido. So don’t be surprised if you experience a new and improved post-surgery sex life. For this reason, most doctors recommend their female patients start on a course of birth control shortly after surgery.
Post-Surgery Psychological Changes Lead to Pregnancy
The more sex you have, the better chances you have to get pregnant. This is true both before and after bariatric surgery. Obesity can cause both men and women to feel self-conscious about their bodies, negatively affecting their sex lives. In addition, being overweight can cause people to be hesitant about dating, making it harder for them to connect with partners. After surgery, the sudden drop in weight can increase confidence, change your appearance and eliminate the self-consciousness that can interfere with sexual satisfaction. Many people start dating for the first time in years or find themselves enjoying a more active sex life with their current spouses.
With a new body and improved appearance, you might find yourself with a brand new and improved relationship with your partner in addition to a healthy and renewed sex drive. The most natural consequence of this is pregnancy. There’s a good reason why the term “bariatric babies” is so popular among post-surgical support groups.
Jamie is a 40 year old woman who was able to conceive a baby after many years of trying with her 42 year old husband, Matthew. After years of unsuccessful fertility treatments and countless visits to specialists, the couple gave up and decided to focus on improving other aspects of their lives. Jamie opted for gastric bypass, losing 114 pounds in the first six months after surgery. Together the couple embarked on a new, healthy lifestyle that included daily runs, biking and healthy eating. Nearly two years after her surgery, Jamie unexpectedly found herself pregnant. Just nine months later, the couple welcomed their first child, a son they named Aiden, into the family.
How Obesity Affects Fertility
Obesity can affect fertility in both men and women. In men, increased fat in the genital area can lead to increased body temperature around the scrotum, killing off sperm cells and making achieving pregnancy difficult. In addition, men who suffer with obesity often have increased estrogen levels which can interfere with sperm count and motility. In men with a BMI of 25 or higher, there is a 79 percent chance that he will suffer from erectile dysfunction. In one study, more than 30 percent of men who lost weight regained normal sexual function and saw a decrease and even elimination of their ED symptoms. Men who undergo obesity surgeries like gastric bypass or gastric sleeve often find that the rebalancing of hormones can easily lead to successful pregnancy.
In women, a common condition, PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) is one of the main culprits when it comes to infertility. This condition causes cysts to form on the ovaries, making it difficult to conceive a pregnancy. One of the side effects of PCOS is weight gain, which complicates the issue and makes it even harder for women to conceive. Weight loss procedures like gastric sleeve and bypass can help to regulate the hormones and get reproduction back on track.
In women’s bodies, there is a delicate balance of hormones that allow pregnancy to occur. Obesity interferes with this by flooding the body with hormones that block the necessary reproductive processes that lead to pregnancy. Overweight and obese women have an increased amount of the hormone leptin, which is secreted through fatty tissue. This extra hormone can interfere with menstrual cycles, causing them to be irregular and heavy. Many women who have a BMI (body mass index) over 30 don’t ovulate at all. Decreasing the BMI has been shown to help to regulate these hormones and start the body’s natural processes and make pregnancy possible.
Pregnancy After Weight Loss Lowers Your Complication Risk
Plus-size women who get pregnant often suffer from complications from their related conditions like high blood pressure, sleep apnea, diabetes and high cholesterol. When women lose weight through surgery, many find that all or most of these conditions are either reduced or eliminated. High blood pressure is especially dangerous in pregnancy, and bariatric surgery is known to be highly effective in lowering blood pressure and reducing strain on the heart. Pre-eclampsia, a potentially fatal conditionthat usually affects women after their 20th week of pregnancy, is reduced in women who have lost weight.
Gestational diabetes is also common in women who suffer from obesity, and can cause pre-term labor and low birth weight babies. Treating the underlying condition can make it less likely that you will suffer from this complication during pregnancy.
Planning for Pregnancy After Weight Loss Procedures
When your weight has stabilized and at least 18 months have passed since your surgery date, it is safe to start planning a pregnancy. The first step is to connect with a trusted obstetrician and start taking the requisite prenatal vitamins. Your obstetrician may also recommend nutritional deficiency testing to determine if any specialty vitamins are necessary. Your doctor will probably check your levels of Vitamin B12, folate, iron and fat-soluble vitamins at the beginning of the pregnancy.
After you have become pregnant, schedule an appointment to talk to your surgical team about nutrition and weight gain during your pregnancy.
Not every obstetrician is well-versed in the needs of pregnant moms who have undergone weight loss surgical procedures. Be sure to share your medical history with the obstetrics team and keep them apprised of what is happening with your body.
Weight Gain During Pregnancy
One of the major fears of newly pregnant moms is weight gain. After you have gone through the intense transformation of adjusting from a large body to a smaller one, accepting your new body and changing your life, it can be hard for you to accept having to gain weight. Attempting to diet or avoid weight gain is ill-advised, as you can harm both yourself and your growing baby.
On the other hand, this is not the time to go overboard and eat whatever you want. The key here is to maintain your healthy lifestyle, eating the right mix of foods to support your new body and your baby’s growth. Remember that your new surgery is a tool that will help you to lose weight, so you will be better able to lose the excess weight after you give birth.
How much weight you gain will depend largely on your body’s physiology and your eating habits. Remember that when you’re pregnant, you’re not “eating for two,” so don’t overdo it when it comes to indulging. While affordable weight loss surgery is an effective tool in helping you to lose weight, it is not a magic fix-it. Maintaining your new healthy eating habits and keeping up with your regular exercise (with your doctor’s approval) is key to losing weight post-pregnancy.
When it comes to getting the most affordable weight loss surgery, Alabama Bariatrics is one of the leading centers for innovative weight loss techniques that help you to lose weight and keep it off. At Alabama Bariatrics we understand how hard it can be when you’re trying to get pregnant with no luck. Studies have shown that bariatric surgery is highly effective in correcting the problems that lead to infertility in both men and women. We have a team of caring professionals that will walk you through every step of the journey, from beginning to victory. Call us today for a free consultation and find out how we can help you achieve your goals.