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New research reveals that timing of pregnancy for bariatric patients can lower risks for infants

Most surgeons recommend women of childbearing age use some method of birth control for 18-24 months after weight loss surgery. A recent study in JAMA Surgery found the greatest risk to the infant is when pregnancy occurs during the first two years after surgery. In the study of over 1800 women with surgery and 8,437 randomly selected women, babies born to mothers after bariatric surgery were 57 percent more likely to be premature, 25 percent more likely to be admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit and 93 percent more likely to be small for gestational age.

In a comparison of babies born to mothers who were four years or more from surgery and babies born to mothers who were two years or less from surgery, there were higher rates of prematurity (12 percent vs 17 percent), ICU admission (12 percent vs 18 percent) and underweight (9 percent vs 13 percent).

Given the effect obesity has on fertility, women of childbearing age may find it easier to get pregnant with significant weight loss after bariatric surgery. This most recent study provides further evidence on the importance of counseling women of childbearing age of the need to use some form of birth control for at least 24 months post-surgery, with evidence to suggest that waiting four years may lead to improved outcomes for the baby.

JAMA Surg. Published online October 19, 2016. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2016.3621

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