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Weight Loss Surgery and Parenthood: Embracing the Journey of a Lifetime

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Obesity: Major Factor in Infertility

About 1 in 8 couples has trouble conceiving and carrying the fetus to term. The rate is far higher among overweight men and women. Obesity causes hormonal changes in both men and women. In men, obesity can lower testosterone levels and make sperm less healthy. The result can be trouble fertilizing the woman’s egg.

In women, obesity can lead to a disturbed menstrual cycle. Even when obese women have regular ovulation, they have a lower chance of establishing a pregnancy. If they do, they may have insulin resistance that can cause miscarriage or other harmful outcomes. If you are overweight, you may have tried to become pregnant for years without success, or without being able to carry a healthy baby to term. Fertility treatments such as IVF can help, but your chances of success are lower when you are obese.

Obesity and Pregnancy: A Dangerous Mixture

Obesity can also make pregnancy more dangerous. The mother is more likely to have gestational diabetes and preeclampsia, or high blood pressure and damage to the kidneys. There is a higher risk of C-section delivery, overdue delivery, and infections. Your child may be at higher risk for birth defects, obesity, and diabetes later in life.

Weight Loss Surgery to Achieve Your Dreams of a Healthy Family

If you are dreaming of starting a family or adding to yours but you have been unable to, obesity may be getting in your way. If you have tried other weight loss methods and none have worked for you, WLS may be the answer. As long as you follow the necessary diet, WLS can help you get your weight down to a level that can support a healthier pregnancy.

Weighing the WLS Decision

Should you get WLS to improve your chances of being able to have a baby? It might be a good option for you if you meet the criteria: for example, if you have not been able to lose weight and keep it off with diet and exercise alone, if you meet the BMI requirements for WLS, and if you feel ready to commit to the required diet – for life.

The next question is the same one faced by all WLS patients: which type of surgery should you get? Just like any other WLS patient, you have to make the decision that is best for you. The lap-band has the advantage of being completely adjustable, so you can get it loosened while pregnant in order to get more nutrients. However, many gastric sleeve and gastric bypass patients have healthy pregnancies, too.

Finally, consider the time-frame. You should wait at least 12 to 18 months after surgery before planning to get pregnant. That’s because you are better off getting pregnant after you hit goal weight. As soon as you get pregnant, you will need to stop losing weight if you want to support the baby’s proper growth and development.

Supporting a Healthy Pregnancy: Don’t Let down Your Guard

After weight loss surgery, it is harder to get in all of your nutrients. Plus, surgeries like the gastric bypass can reduce nutrient absorption. To make sure you are staying nourished and providing the fetus the nutrients it needs for development, you may need a prenatal multivitamin and mineral supplement, plus additional vitamin D, vitamin B12, iron, folic acid, and calcium supplements. The amount of weight you gain is critical, but it may take some mental preparation to allow yourself to gain weight after the 12 to 18 months you just spent working to lose weight.

Also, be aware that you may still have a higher risk for complications if you are starting your pregnancy at an overweight BMI. Your ob-gyn should monitor you carefully. You may need to educate your ob-gyn if he or she is not used to caring for WLS patients!

A Healthy Foundation for Years to Come

Of course, a healthy family isn’t just about the newborn. With WLS, you may develop long-term healthy habits that your children will pick up on as they grow up. You can teach them to love healthy foods and to beg to play outdoors – with their active parents!

Some WLS patients get off track after hitting goal weight because there is less motivation and excitement during the maintenance phase. You have the advantage of having plenty of motivation. How much more motivation do you need than having many more healthy years left to enjoy your family and watch them as they fit the healthy habits you modeled for them into their own lifestyles?

There are almost unlimited reasons to get WLS, and one of them is starting a family. If that’s one of your goals, talk to your doctor and surgeon about it. You may be able to achieve this dream more easily than you had dared hope.

This is a great article, both informative and sensitive. Many people don't realize that even modest weight loss can make a healthy pregnancy possible.

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Thanks for the article. I was actually pregnant when I decided to have WLS. It took us a year to conceive and went through multiple medications. Ended up conceiving naturally, but knew losing weight would help us for #2. I was approved to start trying at my 12 month check up. Waiting a little longer because I have committed to 2 half marathons later this year so we will start trying in January. I just saw my OB/GYN and he told me that I am in fantastic physical shape. I will be 39 when we start trying and told me that there are some risks, but said that my risks now are no where near what they had been when I got pregnant in 2014.

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