Weight-Loss Surgery Before Pregnancy Puts Babies At High Risk Of ‘Congenital Anomalies’

Scientists have called on clinics to put more focus on pregnant women who undergone weight-loss surgery. A new study shows that having such surgery before pregnancy could increase the risk for women to develop complications and that their babies are more likely to be born prematurely and to develop congenital anomalies. 

The findings come from the analysis of the health of mothers and their babies during four million pregnancies without history of the surgery. The data was compared to more than 14,800 pregnant women who previously undergone weight-loss surgery. 

"Our findings indicate that women with a history of bariatric surgery, and in particular gastric bypass surgery, are at much greater risk of several adverse perinatal outcomes" Zainab Akhter, a PhD student from Newcastle University, United Kingdom, said in a statement. "These women require specific preconception and pregnancy nutritional support.”

Akhter’s team said those at-risk pregnancies should get additional support throughout pregnancy. Expecting mothers might develop gestational diabetes and hypertension, while their babies are 57 percent more likely to be born premature, 41 percent more likely to be admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit and 29 percent more likely to have congenital anomalies.

The babies of mothers with history of weight-loss surgery are also found with 38 percent greater risk of perinatal death.

For the study, the researchers conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies that looked at the negative impacts of bariatric surgery on pregnancies. The team analyzed data from 33 articles and compared 14,880 pregnancies after bariatric surgery with almost four million pregnancies in women who had not undergone surgery.

"It is not clear how weight-loss surgery may influence fetal development, but we know that people who have bariatric surgery are more likely to have micronutrient deficiencies," Zainab said. "More work needs to be done to better understand the causes of these differences.”

Further studies on the impacts of weight-loss surgeries on pregnancy would help experts determine the specific support for women to improve pregnancy.

The researchers will present their findings at the European Congress on Obesity in Glasgow, U.K.