With more and more women having bariatric surgery, such as gastric bypass and gastric banding, a new trend for pregnancies has been developed: pregnancy after weight loss surgery. A woman who gets pregnant following a weight loss surgery faces a few more risks than a woman who hasn’t had a weight loss surgery; however, with close monitoring, both mother and baby usually make it through the pregnancy, labor and delivery without any serious complications.
The main concern with a woman getting pregnant following a weight loss surgery is that she won’t be able to take in enough nutrients to sustain herself and provide the growing fetus the nutrients needed to develop properly. The most important way to combat this is to wait at least 18 months after the surgery before getting pregnant. By 18 months after the surgery, the woman’s weight loss will have stabilized. Not only does waiting 18 months give the stomach a chance to heal from the surgery, it also allows the woman to lose as much weight as possible before becoming pregnant.
This problem of adequate nutrition is more prevalent in women who have had gastric bypass than gastric banding. In gastric bypass, the size of the stomach pouch is surgically reduced. In the gastric banding, the stomach pouch size is reduced by placing an inflatable band around it, so the band can be deflated during pregnancy so it is easier for the woman to get adequate nutrition.
In order to get adequate nutrition during her pregnancy, a woman who has had a weight loss surgery must eat small, nutrient packed meals every two to three hours during the day. Special nutritional shakes and nutritional supplement drinks are also needed to help the woman get what she needs daily. Prenatal vitamins are also necessary.
A woman who has had weight loss surgery is more likely to suffer from self image problems as a result of the pregnancy weight gain. After working hard for a long period of time to lose weight, suddenly the woman is told that she must gain weight. The self image problems are affected by the way a woman carries the baby. If the woman is obviously pregnant, her self-image isn’t likely to suffer as much as a woman who doesn’t have a well defined ‘pregnancy belly.’
Another potential complication is gestational diabetes. If a woman is still overweight when she gets pregnant following bariatric surgery, she is more likely to develop gestational diabetes than a woman who is within a normal weight range for her height before conception. Despite this increased risk, there isn’t any adverse effect on the baby after delivery.
There is also an increased chance that the woman will have to have a Cesarean section instead of a normal vaginal birth. The exact reason for this unknown but it is likely due to the stress that having a weight loss surgery places on the midsection.
As long as a woman is willing to carefully monitor her nutritional intake during pregnancy, it is safe to become pregnant if she waits at least 18 months following the procedure.