Weight-loss Surgery and Pregnancy   

Weight-loss Surgery and Pregnancy

Doctor and patient holding hands, offering support.

November 03, 2023

Clinical Contributors to this story:
Seth Kipnis, M.D.
Stephanie Scianni, D.O.

For many people who hope to become pregnant, being obese or overweight can hinder that goal. "Obesity has been linked to fertility issues," says Seth Kipnis, M.D., medical director of Bariatric and Robotic Surgery at Jersey Shore University Medical Center. "It can also increase a pregnant woman's chances of conditions such as gestational diabetes. For those who can't lose weight through diet and exercise alone, bariatric surgery may provide a solution."

How Obesity Impacts Fertility and Pregnancy

Stephanie Scianni, D.O., obstetrician/gynecologist at Jersey Shore, says obesity has been linked to several fertility issues, making it difficult for some people to conceive.

Irregular ovulation: A woman needs a regular menstrual cycle to ovulate and release eggs for fertilization. Excess weight can lead to hormone imbalances that can affect ovulation cycles.

Anovulation: Obesity also increases the risk of anovulation, when the ovaries do not release eggs.

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS): Obesity can increase the risk of PCOS, a hormonal disorder that affects the ovaries and can lead to infertility.

Women who are overweight or obese also face increased risks during pregnancy. Risks include:

  • Gestational diabetes
  • Preterm birth due to macrosomia (a large baby size)
  • Preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy)
  • Cesarean delivery
  • Stillbirth

“All of these factors can put both mother and baby at higher risk for complications during pregnancy,” Dr. Scianni says.

Weight-loss Surgery as a Solution

"By helping women lose excess weight, bariatric surgery can help address the problems that may be leading to infertility, as well as decrease some of the increased risks in pregnancy," says Dr. Kipnis.

The first step is talking to a specialist to see if bariatric surgery is right for you. Many factors help determine if you're a candidate for surgery. Weight loss surgery might be a good option if you:

  • Have a BMI (body mass index) of 40 or higher
  • Have a BMI of 35 or higher plus a serious medical condition such as high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes, arthritis or PCOS
  • Had unsuccessful attempts at controlling your weight using other weight loss methods
  • Are unable to perform routine daily activities

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that women wait 18–24 months after weight-loss surgery before getting pregnant. This gives the body time to adjust to the changes and allows the woman to become as healthy as possible for a successful pregnancy.

"Weight-loss surgery has been shown to be the most effective and long-lasting treatment for morbid obesity, but it is not an 'easy way out,'" says Dr. Kipnis. "Surgery isn't a cure for obesity but rather a tool to help patients successfully achieve long-term and significant weight loss. Patients have to commit to eating healthy and exercising to lose weight."

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.

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