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Will Bariatric Surgery Improve My Fertility?

March 23, 2023

The aesthetics of weight loss is a major draw for many seeking bariatric surgery, but that’s not the only reason to have this life-changing procedure. Bariatric surgery can also improves fertility.

Studies have found that weight loss through bariatric surgery boosts sexual function and overall fertility factors, including higher sperm count in men and more healthy pregnancies in women. Other cascading health improvements that accompany maintaining a healthy weight -- such as lower risk for hypertension and diabetes -- combine to boost fertility, paving the way for more family-planning dreams to come true.

Bariatric Surgery and Fertility in Men

Too often, fertility is associated solely with women. This is only one-half of the fertility story, however. Lifestyle choices made by men, and some genetic predispositions, can hurt fertility, too. Obesity can fall into either of those categories and impede a couple’s efforts to conceive.

Obesity has the following adverse effects on men’s fertility:

The weight loss that accompanies bariatric surgery can improve all these conditions -- leading to improved male fertility.

Bariatric Surgery and Fertility in Women

Women who are obese struggle with some of the same fertility issues as men and additional complications when it comes to conceiving and carrying a healthy child to term. Some of the ways obesity impacts women’s fertility include:

  • Hormonal imbalances leading to lower libido and sex drive
  • Irregular periods, making it difficult to conceive
  • Increased instances of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), which affects 1 in 10 women of childbearing age and is a known challenge to fertility

Obesity in women also increases the chance of pregnancy complications, such as preeclampsia and gestational diabetes, and accompanies higher rates of stillbirths.

Women who reached a healthy weight after weight-loss surgery reported lower instances of major birth defects in infants than other women, research shows. Weight loss improves the fertility outlook for women who have struggled to conceive or have a pregnancy planned in the future.

Bariatric Surgery and Pregnancy

Weight loss alone will improve fertility and the chances for healthy, full-term infants, but you must consider a few more factors before trying to conceive. Specifically, women should:

  • Refrain from getting pregnant for 18 months following bariatric surgery. Protein, folate, iron and calcium are among common nutrient deficiencies after surgery -- and all are vital to the health of a growing fetus. You should ensure your own levels of these and other necessary nutrients are stable before becoming pregnant.
  • Incorporate prenatal vitamins in your routine in the months leading up to conception so the baby has proper nutrients and the risk of congenital disabilities is reduced.
  • Pay attention to your body during pregnancy for signs of internal hernias or bowel obstructions, and seek emergency help if either symptoms arise.
  • Speak with a psychologist or other mental health professional about expected pregnancy body changes, weight gain and potential mental health effects.

The desire to start or increase a family is a great reason to want to maintain a healthy weight, and bariatric surgery provides a path to improved fertility.

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