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Is Pregnancy After Weight-Loss Surgery Safe?

Pregnant Woman and Stethoscope (Image credit: <a href=''>Pregnancy photo</a> via Shutterstock)

Women who've had weight-loss surgery should wait at least a year before they try to become pregnant, according to a new review.

Some studies show an increased risk of premature birth among women who've had bariatric surgery (such as gastric bypass surgery) and get pregnant within one year of surgery, compared with women who conceive after one year. In addition, nutritional deficiencies can occur during the first year after surgery that could potentially affect the growing fetus, the researchers said. (According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists(ACOG), women who've undergone weight-loss surgery are at an increased risk for deficiencies in iron, vitamin B12, folate, vitamin D and calcium. Getting an adequate amount of these nutrients is important for the mother and baby.)

For these reasons, it is reasonable to recommend that women who've had bariatric surgery should delay pregnancy for one year, and should speak with their doctor for advice on pregnancy timing, contraception, nutrition, weight gain and vitamin supplementation, the researchers said.

As obesity rates rise, the number of women of reproductive age who undergo bariatric surgery is expected to increase.

In the United States, about half of all bariatric surgeries performed between 2003 and 2005 were on women ages 18 to 45, the researchers said.

Obesity increases the risk for pregnancy complications, such as gestational diabetes, and studies show that pregnancy after bariatric surgery is safer than pregnancy in morbidly obese women.

However, there are some risks. For instance, some women who've had gastric banding (a procedure that places a band around the upper portion of the stomach to limit food intake) may experience slippage of the band during pregnancy. [See Infographic: Types of Weight Loss Surgery.]

ACOG recommends that women who've had gastric banding be monitored to determine whether or not band adjustment is necessary.

The review, written by researchers at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Essex, United Kingdom, will be published tomorrow (Jan. 11) in the journal The Obstetrician & Gynaecologist.

Pass it on: After weight-loss surgery, women should wait a year before becoming pregnant, according to a new review.

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Rachael Rettner
Rachael has been with Live Science since 2010. She has a masters degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in molecular biology and a Master of Science in biology from the University of California, San Diego.