Undergoing bariatric surgery to lose weight and becoming pregnant… At first glance these 2 goals may seem to contradict each other. As with most surgeries, women of childbearing age fear how surgery can affect their chances of having a healthy baby. However, you need not sacrifice one goal for the other.
It is a proven fact that a healthy weight regulates your hormones and menstrual cycle, and in turn increases your chances of conception. It can also protect you from preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and organ damage associated with pregnant women who are obese. Following healthy eating habits and properly planning your pregnancy after bariatric surgery can ensure significant improvements in your chances of having a healthy baby.
Although the excitement of suddenly losing so much weight is an incentive to do all that you could not with those extra pounds, such as conceiving, it recommended to wait for 12 to 24 months following bariatric surgery before planning your family. This is the time that your body goes through many drastic and sudden changes in nutrition absorption and weight loss – changes that should affect your weight loss goals, but not the health of your baby. If you do get pregnant during this period, it increases the chances that your ultimate weight loss may not be as significant. Your weight and nutritional intake, and your baby’s growth will be monitored closely so that your new metabolism does not affect your growing fetus.
Bariatric surgery is based on two principles of losing weight – restricting food intake and/or in some cases, limiting nutrition absorption (malabsorptive surgery). This may interfere with the amount of food your body needs for sustenance as well as to nourish the developing fetus that is solely dependent on you. You will have to strike a balance between adequate nutrition to feed your growing baby and avoiding excessive weight gain. The normal weight gain during pregnancy should be approximately 25 to 35 pounds. In addition, certain malabsorptive surgeries require the long-term intake of certain vitamin and mineral supplements to avoid deficiencies. Supplementation in the form of vitamins, folic acid and microelements (elements such as iron, copper, and zinc that are needed in small amounts) is also essential. Before and during each trimester of pregnancy, blood tests are ordered and levels of iron, calcium and vitamin D are closely monitored to ensure normal levels are maintained with the supplements.
Following delivery, you can expect to have a healthy and significant weight loss. However, it must be stressed that during pregnancy you cannot get back to your pre-surgical diet as gaining excess amount of weight not only hampers your weight loss goals, but more importantly, is detrimental to your pregnancy. Avoid junk food such as potato chips that might satisfy your hunger, but not your nutritional requirements. Stick to foods that have high protein content. Stay active with regular safe exercises such as walking and swimming.
Pregnancy after weight-loss surgery can be safe and healthy if it is well managed by you and your doctor. The mantra is and will always be “healthy eating” for both weight loss as well as during pregnancy.