Debunking WLS Myths: Pregnancy and Weight Loss Surgery

Many women wonder how a potential pregnancy will affect their weight loss surgery plans and goals. Is it safe to get pregnant after surgery? Will it affect the baby? Will all weight loss plans be disrupted? How will a post-op pregnancy be different from a pre-op pregnancy?

While every case is different, there is a lot of reassuring evidence for post-op future mothers. In fact, research suggests that for most, a post-weight loss surgery pregnancy can actually be less risky than a pregnancy while obese.

Earlier in this series, we tackled common misconceptions about the public perception of weight loss surgery and its safety. Now we debunk myths surrounding weight loss surgery and pregnancy.

The waiting game
The first thing many women who want to get pregnant may wonder is how long they should wait after surgery. Though it depends on the type of bariatric surgery, typically it is recommended to wait 18 months before getting pregnant, so the body has time to stabilize. Once the period of rapid weight loss has leveled off, women are likely to be perfectly safe to get pregnant. It’s all about making sure the body is equipped to give both itself and the baby the right amount of nutrition. Before making any plans, be sure to talk with your doctor about specific timing for you and your needs.

Continued weight loss
Though it may seem a bit counterintuitive, many post-op women lose weight while pregnant and go on to have a completely healthy pregnancy. With that, it is important to monitor nutrition levels to make sure the body is properly metabolizing nutrients. Weight loss surgery changes the body’s relationship with certain nutrients, and pregnancy can make it even more difficult to properly absorb them. This is a great thing to bring up with your surgeon or a nutritionist that is familiar with bariatric patients.

Healthy and safe pregnancy
We’ve already debunked the myth that weight loss surgery isn’t a safe option. The same is true for pregnant women. Compared with pregnancies of women with obesity, post-WLS pregnancies have lower maternal complication rates and fewer cases of high blood pressure. The child benefits from a post-op pregnancy as well. There are fewer cases of premature deliveries, and they tend to have fewer cardiovascular risks compared to pre-op siblings.

Overall, a post-op pregnancy can have many benefits to both the mother and the child. Besides risk and complication reduction, the child’s future health is greatly impacted.
“Children born to previously obese mothers who had weight loss surgery may be less likely to become obese themselves,” according to one study.

Have more questions about post-weight loss surgery pregnancy? It helps to have a “navigator,” like Sharon Hillgartner at Texas Health Flower Mound. Find out more about Sharon here.

Not sure if you are a candidate for weight loss surgery? View our bariatric surgery guidelines here.