Does weight-loss surgery have an effect on a woman’s fertility? The simple answer is YES.
One of the challenges facing a woman of reproductive age who is overweight or obese can be the struggle to conceive. Morbid obesity has long been known to have an impact on a woman’s reproductive health and to play a role in menstrual irregularities, including the presence of irregular menstrual cycles and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
PCOS is caused by an imbalance of reproductive hormones that creates problems in a woman’s ovaries. Many women who get bariatric surgery see an improvement in or resolution of their PCOS or other symptoms that could be interfering with pregnancy. What’s more, a report published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that post-surgery weight loss for women with PCOS not only resolved their reproductive abnormalities but their metabolic ones as well. This is good news for women who may also suffer from diabetes, arthritis or other obesity-related comorbidities.*
Why Bariatric Surgery Improves Fertility
A significant benefit of bariatric surgery is the promotion of better hormone regulation in the body through weight loss. Better hormone balance can effectively restore ovulation in women of reproductive age, a contributing factor to fertility.
Plus, when compared to other women struggling with obesity, those who have had bariatric surgery often experience a decreased risk for obstetric complications such as miscarriage, along with better neonatal outcomes. Many women who were infertile before having surgery are able to conceive as well as sustain a successful pregnancy, and may not require additional fertility treatments.
It also makes sense that bariatric surgery lessens the weight on reproductive organs over time and promotes other physiological changes that may be affecting a woman’s fertility.
What You Should Know About Pregnancy after Weight-Loss Surgery
You should wait at least 18 months after surgery before getting pregnant. It’s safe to get pregnant after bariatric surgery, but you want your weight to stabilize first. After surgery, your body goes through significant changes and some nutritional upheaval, which can pose problems for a developing baby.
Your fertility boost can raise your chances of getting pregnant by accident if you haven’t been using birth control. This can be problematic if it occurs too soon after surgery because of the potential for maternal and fetal malnutrition and a small or underdeveloped newborn.
You will want to monitor your nutrient intake closely. Even past the initial post-surgery period, many women have nutritional shortfalls that can affect the health of a pregnancy. To make sure you and your baby are getting enough nutrients, you may need to enlist a nutritionist who is knowledgeable about the effects of weight-loss surgery.
Your risk of complications during pregnancy drops, but doesn’t disappear. A study in Obstetrics and Gynecology found that women who had bariatric surgery developed pregnancy-induced hypertension and gestational diabetes at rates similar to those of healthy-weight women who had never undergone weight-loss surgery.
You may face struggles with body image. One of the greatest emotional effects of pregnancy for post-surgery women has to do with body image. You have to become comfortable with the fact that pregnancy is a time to gain weight. And not only do you have to get used to a growing belly again, but you may also have some scars from the surgery that won’t stretch very well as you expand.
Our goal through bariatric surgery at Lee Bariatrics for women who face both weight and fertility challenges is to help bring about a positive change in reproductive, as well as overall, health. Call us today at 1-888-225-9514 to discuss treatment options tailored to you.
* Note: If weight is regained, diabetes and other health conditions may return.
The above is for general information purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for the medical guidance from and discussion with your physician.