Weight-loss surgery helps with pregnancy: study

Tue Nov 18, 2008 11:24pm EST
 
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By Andrew Stern

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Women who get pregnant after weight-loss surgery tend to be healthier and less likely to deliver a baby born with complications compared to obese women, researchers said on Tuesday.

An obese woman who has weight-loss, or bariatric, surgery also may increase her chances of getting pregnant in the first place by normalizing her menstrual cycles and hormone levels, the researchers found.

Obese women are more likely to have difficulty getting pregnant, but after the surgery "there is some suggestion of increased fertility," Dr. Melinda Maggard, a surgeon and researcher at the Rand Corp think tank in Santa Monica, California, said in a telephone interview.

Bariatric surgery alters the digestive system's anatomy and reduces the volume of food that can be eaten and digested. The most common form is gastric bypass, which makes the stomach smaller and permits food to bypass part of the small intestine.

While losing weight naturally is preferable, weight-loss surgery does reduce the risks of pregnancy-related problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure that can harm the mother and her newborn, said the RAND researchers who analyzed data from 75 earlier studies.

The risks of premature delivery, having a low birth weight baby, or delivering an exceedingly large-bodied baby were reduced for women who had bariatric surgery compared to obese women, the report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association said.

In some cases, pregnancy-related risks after surgery were comparable to those for normal-weight women.

Bariatric procedures have surged in the past decade, with more than 200,000 performed last year in the United States. In the years 2002 to 2005 covered by the study, 150,000 U.S. women of child-bearing age underwent the surgery.   Continued...