Will I Be Able to Get Pregnant After Gastric Sleeve Surgery?

Jeremy Korman';

By Jeremy Korman

Posted on January 21st, 2012 in Weight Loss

Many women wonder if bariatric surgery will affect their ability to have children. For most women, it may — but in a good way. Obesity carries several hazards relating to pregnancy.

Obesity can negatively impact fertility and make it more difficult for a woman to become pregnant.

Children born to obese women are more likely to be born prematurely, and obese women are more likely to require a C-section. 

Furthermore, obese expecting mothers are more likely to suffer from gestational diabetes.

Other obesity-related complications can be to the detriment of the mother's or the baby's health. If a woman plans to become pregnant, doctors will usually advise her to keep her weight healthy for her height and body type.

How Is Sleeve Gastrectomy Performed?

Obesity is difficult to overcome. For this reason, bariatric surgery is becoming more and more common. Gastric sleeve surgery is one such surgery. As a "restrictive" procedure, it limits the stomach's capacity, so the patient eats less and is full more quickly.

The gastric sleeve differs in this respect from "malabsorptive" surgeries, making it so the body absorbs fewer calories and nutrients from food. In gastric sleeve surgery, also known as sleeve gastrectomy, the surgeon permanently removes a large part of the stomach. The remaining section of the stomach is the shape and size of a small banana or sleeve (hence the name).

As the stomach sleeve can hold less than the original stomach, the patient normally eats less and loses weight. Good nutrition makes this weight loss happen faster, and patients can also maintain their positive results over the long term.

According to many studies, sleeve gastrectomy is also very effective at:

  • treating and even causing the remission of diabetes
  • treating high blood pressure
  • positive results in treating other comorbid medical conditions associated with obesity

Barring very uncommon complications of the surgery, this should eventually make it easier to conceive and carry a child to term with less risk of negative consequences.

However, it is often wise to wait a couple of years after gastric sleeve surgery to become pregnant. This is because the patient will, normally, be losing fat at a rapid rate. Once the patient is at her goal weight, it is best to stabilize and maintain that weight for some time before pregnancy is attempted. This increases the chance of health in both pregnancy and lifelong weight loss. The average cost of gastric sleeve surgery is around $16,800.

Pregnancy after Weight Loss Surgery

A common concern among women contemplating weight loss surgery is pregnancy. Does weight loss surgery affect fertility? It can — in mainly positive ways. Doctors say that obesity can negatively affect fertility, which is a cause for concern.

More than half of pregnant American women are overweight or obese at conception and gain more than the medically recommended amount during pregnancy.

Researchers at Brown University announced last winter that the inflammation of fat cells could affect the placenta in pregnant women, causing:

  • a higher incidence of low birth weight
  • more instances of pre-term labor
  • complications from C-sections

A British study has found that when mothers are obese early in pregnancy, there is an even higher risk of infant mortality. This means that it is safer to have a healthy weight when becoming pregnant. However, losing weight can cause stress on the body, which means that a period of rapid, aggressive weight loss is not the optimal time to become pregnant either.

Doctors recommend that women wait until their weight has stabilized before becoming pregnant — eighteen months post-surgery is a good general guideline.

After WLS, You Might Experience a Boost in Fertility

Ovulation can become more regular, and for obese women with polycystic ovarian syndrome, weight loss can help resolve the disorder's fertility consequences.

Expectant mothers must watch their nutrition closely. This becomes doubly important after bariatric surgery because weight loss surgery restricts the amount of food you can consume. Some surgeries also restrict the absorption of calories and nutrients. Patients must be sure they are getting enough protein and vitamins, which becomes even more important when pregnancy is considered. A nutritionist can help plan a good post-weight-loss surgery pregnancy diet.

So, can pregnancy be safe after weight loss surgery? Can weight loss surgery even make pregnancy safer? The answer is yes! Just make sure you plan, get your doctor's advice, check up regularly, and keep your focus on maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital would be happy to provide any further information on pregnancy after weight loss surgery or on any other weight loss issue that concerns you.

If You Would Like to Know More About Gastric Sleeve Surgery, Ask Our Staff

If you’re considering weight loss surgery or a bariatric patient considering starting a family, we strongly recommend a session with our specialist team, who can assist and talk you through the options.