Maternal and Infant Health Program Maternal and Infant Health Program

  SLC area: (801) 273-2871

  SLC area: (801) 274-0674

  Maternal and Infant Health Program
  P.O. Box 142002
  Salt Lake City UT

Pregnancy Planning in the Weight Loss Surgery Patient

Obesity in an expectant mother can cause problems in her pregnancy. This can begin even before she gets pregnant since infertility is a frequent problem associated with excess weight. Pregnancy in an obese woman carries more risks than for others of normal weight for problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure and exercise since her ability to move may be limited.

Weight loss surgery is a good option for women who are seriously obese (about 100 lbs. overweight), resulting in excellent long-term results. But, it is important to know the risks involved as they relate to pregnancy.

When a person has major surgery such as this the body needs time to heal. The surgeon changes the stomach and/or intestines and the patient is able to achieve rapid weight loss. The nutritional status of the woman during this weight loss stage may not be enough to support a growing baby, so it is not a healthy way to begin a pregnancy. There could be problems with preterm delivery or miscarriage. For this reason it is recommended that a woman wait until her weight and health have stabilized before she gets pregnant. Eighteen months has been determined to be a good minimum period of time between weight loss surgery and the time she becomes pregnant. Healthy babies have been born to mothers who became pregnant within the first year following their surgery, but waiting can help to give her the best chance for a successful pregnancy.

If infertility was a problem before surgery, the woman may believe she still cannot become pregnant and may not be careful about using birth control during the recommended eighteen month waiting period following weight loss surgery. But, the significant weight loss that occurs may result in improved fertility, so a surprise pregnancy could occur. Even if birth control was not needed before weight loss, it should be used faithfully after the surgery until weight loss goals are achieved and the woman’s body has healed completely. Many doctors recommend using two reliable forms of birth control at this time. .

The woman needs enough iron in her body and this is sometimes a problem following the weight loss surgery. Sometimes special forms of iron are needed. It is especially important to take a good prenatal vitamin faithfully beginning before you even become pregnant. It would be a good idea to see your doctor before you start trying to have a baby to make sure you are in good health. You should discuss your surgery with your doctor at this time.

Once you are pregnant it is important to keep all your prenatal appointments. To be sure you are getting the best nutrition and necessary adjustments for your situation you may also need to talk with your weight loss surgeon and a dietician. Help your family doctor, obstetrician, or midwife to know your special nutritional needs. This may include eating smaller, frequent meals with more protein and even making adjustments in the routine glucose screening to avoid dumping syndrome, a common long-term effect following gastric bypass surgery. This can be triggered by sweet foods or drinks such as might be used in the glucose testing.

Do plan to breastfeed your baby but be alert that extra care should be given to adequate nutrient intake. You should continue your vitamin supplements faithfully while nursing your baby. It is recommended that the baby receive breast milk for the first year of life and the baby’s weight should be monitored for normal growth patterns through regular well-baby visits with the pediatrician. Be sure to discuss any concerns relating to your health history and nutritional status with your baby’s doctor.

Once the body is healthy again following weight loss, pregnancy is just as safe as it is in a normal weight mother-to-be and there will be fewer risks than she would have had in her obese, pre-surgery state. So, get healthy, then get pregnant!