Your Pregnancy Matters

Should I have bariatric surgery before my pregnancy?

Your Pregnancy Matters

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Many women hoping to become pregnant undergo bariatric surgery, but timing is critical.

If you’re severely obese and thinking about getting pregnant, it’s a good time to stop and think about the risks – and the perfect opportunity to improve your own health and that of your baby-to-be.

You may already know that obesity is a leading cause of chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabeteshypertensioncancerhigh cholesterol, and stroke.

For pregnant women, though, obesity presents an even greater risk. It is linked to complications such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and premature birth, and it poses an increased risk for cesarean section and stillbirth. After delivery, large-for-gestational-age infants of obese mothers have higher incidences of childhood obesity.

Because of these health concerns, many women who are severely obese and want to become pregnant choose to undergo bariatric surgery, also known as weight-loss surgery.

To qualify for these surgical procedures, patients must typically have a body mass index (BMI) of 40, or meet a baseline BMI of 35 if they also have a medical condition exacerbated by obesity.

The most commonly performed weight-loss procedures are adjustable gastric banding and Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery. Both procedures reduce the size of your stomach so you feel full faster and eat less food.

While weight-loss surgery is not a magic solution, it can be a great tool for women who are severely obese and who are interested in improving their overall health as well as the health of their baby during and after pregnancy.

3 things to consider

Here are three things you should keep in mind if you’re considering or have already had weight-loss surgery and are planning on becoming pregnant:

  1. Make your health a top priority – If you want to become pregnant, now’s the time to begin working on your overall health, including your fitness and nutrition. The healthier you are, the healthier your pregnancy and your baby will be. You might want to consider involving a nutritionist or a multidisciplinary bariatric team in your decision for weight loss.
  2. Know your risk factors – Undergoing bariatric surgery doesn’t automatically make a woman vulnerable to having a high-risk pregnancy. Most patients have successful, normal pregnancies after weight-loss surgery. However, if you have other obesity-related conditions, such as Type 2 diabetes or hypertension, discuss with your doctor in detail how these health risks may affect a future pregnancy. Also, if you’ve had a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, you may need screening for nutritional deficiencies.
  3. Consider the timing – Infertility is a common problem for obese women, and it’s often overcome by weight loss. However, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that women wait 12 to 24 months before becoming pregnant after undergoing weight-loss surgery. This allows time for the mother’s weight and nutritional intake to stabilize, decreasing the risk of having a baby who is small at birth. It’s important to include this waiting period in your timeline.

The right help from a team

Successfully combining a healthy event (weight-loss surgery) with a happy one (pregnancy) takes planning.

But it can be done with the right help and team in place. At UT Southwestern, people who are considering bariatric surgery and pregnancy have access to a multidisciplinary team of specialists, including bariatric surgeons, nutritionists, and Ob/Gyns overseeing their care. Moms-to-be and their infants can feel comfortable knowing they have everything in place for a great start to their life together.

To schedule an appointment with a bariatric or Ob/Gyn specialist, call 214-645-8300 or click here. You also can attend a free, no-obligation seminar, held every Friday, to meet our team and learn about the bariatric procedures we offer. Click here for information on the time and location and to register.