Many women opt for bariatric surgery in order to increase chances of maintaining a healthy pregnancy. A recent study suggests that weight loss surgery can help a woman do just that, but there are risks.
Personally, my full term post bariatric surgery pregnancy was different than my pre-WLS pregnancies. I was at a more normal bodyweight at the time of my daughter's gestation, and I did not seem to suffer the ill effects of obesity on pregnancy like I had with my prior children. I had no high blood pressure, no high blood sugar, nor did I land on bedrest – which I had with previous babies. My post RNY pregnancy offered me anemia and rampant hypoglycemia. I was not well.
She was born healthy, but small, in comparison to my earlier babies. I noted a lack of body fat at birth. This is several weeks old.
While the study found some risks for women who had surgery, including more babies born too small and a greater likelihood of stillbirths, experts said that overall the results were better.
The findings have implications for an increasing number of women and children, especially in the United States, where nearly a third of women who become pregnant are obese. Obese women have more problems in pregnancy, including gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, and stillbirth. Their babies are more likely to be premature, overweight or underweight at birth, have certain birth defects, and develop childhood obesity.
The study, published Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine, sought to find out if surgery could safely mitigate some of those effects. Swedish researchers, led by Kari Johansson, a nutritionist at the Karolinska Institute, evaluated records of 2,832 obese women who gave birth between 2006 and 2011, comparing women who had bariatric surgery before becoming pregnant with women who did not.
They found that women who had had surgery were about 30 percent as likely to develop gestational diabetes, which can lead to pre-eclampsia, low blood sugar, birth defects and miscarriage. They were about 40 percent as likely to have overly large babies, whose challenges can include lung and blood problems.
The outcomes were worse in some categories. Women who had surgery were twice as likely to have babies who were small for their gestational age, suggesting the need for better nutrition for pregnant women with surgically-reduced stomachs. And more of their babies were stillborn or died within a month after birth, although the number of such deaths in each group was very small and might have been due to chance, experts and the authors said. There was no significant difference in rates of premature births or babies with birth defects.
The study via NEJM –
Maternal obesity is associated with increased risks of gestational diabetes, large-for-gestational-age infants, preterm birth, congenital malformations, and stillbirth. The risks of these outcomes among women who have undergone bariatric surgery are unclear.
We identified 627,693 singleton pregnancies in the Swedish Medical Birth Register from 2006 through 2011, of which 670 occurred in women who had previously undergone bariatric surgery and for whom presurgery weight was documented. For each pregnancy after bariatric surgery, up to five control pregnancies were matched for the mother’s presurgery body-mass index (BMI; we used early-pregnancy BMI in the controls), age, parity, smoking history, educational level, and delivery year. We assessed the risks of gestational diabetes, large-for-gestational-age and small-for-gestational-age infants, preterm birth, stillbirth, neonatal death, and major congenital malformations.
Pregnancies after bariatric surgery, as compared with matched control pregnancies, were associated with lower risks of gestational diabetes (1.9% vs. 6.8%; odds ratio, 0.25; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.13 to 0.47; P<0.001) and large-for-gestational-age infants (8.6% vs. 22.4%; odds ratio, 0.33; 95% CI, 0.24 to 0.44; P<0.001). In contrast, they were associated with a higher risk of small-for-gestational-age infants (15.6% vs. 7.6%; odds ratio, 2.20; 95% CI, 1.64 to 2.95; P<0.001) and shorter gestation (273.0 vs. 277.5 days; mean difference −4.5 days; 95% CI, −2.9 to −6.0; P<0.001), although the risk of preterm birth was not significantly different (10.0% vs. 7.5%; odds ratio, 1.28; 95% CI, 0.92 to 1.78; P=0.15). The risk of stillbirth or neonatal death was 1.7% versus 0.7% (odds ratio, 2.39; 95% CI, 0.98 to 5.85; P=0.06). There was no significant between-group difference in the frequency of congenital malformations.
Bariatric surgery was associated with reduced risks of gestational diabetes and excessive fetal growth, shorter gestation, an increased risk of small-for-gestational-age infants, and possibly increased mortality. (Funded by the Swedish Research Council and others.)
PS. Post RNY baby is eight years and four months old now. She's fine.