Obesity, Fertility, and Pregnancy

Researchers over the last decade have just begun to understand how seriously the current obesity epidemic affects women’s health. People with increased adipose (fatty) tissue produce significant amounts of estrones and testosterone. Hormone imbalances can challenge a women’s reproductive system in numerous ways. Obesity can result in infertility, complicated pregnancy, and significant gynecological diseases such uterine cancer. Women who are overweight are prone to develop a number of endocrine disorders such as polycystic ovarian syndrome that often results in irregular or heavy menstrual cycles, abnormal hair growth, acne and infertility. Other associated disorders include the development of diabetes, especially during pregnancy.

Obese women have four to five times the risk of normal-weight women of developing pre-eclampsia, a condition marked by high blood pressure and other problems that can lead to the life-threatening disorder eclampsia. Also, compared with normal-weight women, their babies are two to three times more likely to be stillborn or to die soon after birth. They are also two to three times more likely to suffer a stillbirth after the 28th week of pregnancy, and are more than twice as likely to need a cesarean section or to have labor induced. The babies of morbidly obese women are more likely to die shortly after birth, compared with those born to normal-weight women. These infants also have higher rates of fetal distress, high birth weight, and low Apgar scores — a measure of newborn health that includes heart rate, breathing and other factors.

Amazingly, dramatic weight loss often results in a dramatic improvement in obesity related endocrine abnormalities. After weight loss surgery, many female patients experience rapid improvement in their menstrual cycle, a decrease in acne and “man-pattern hair” growth. Women more easily become pregnant as their hormone balances improve and diabetes is often cured.

Weight loss surgery is the only method proven to reliably allow people who are 100 pounds or more to lose weight. Unfortunately, diet and exercise fails in 95% of people in long-term studies. Pregnancy after weight loss surgery has been shown to be safer than pregnancy while overweight. When performed in expert comprehensive centers, weight loss surgery results in minimal to no risk of problems during pregnancy.  Several studies looking at the gastric bypass and the Lap-Band® have documented no increase in complications compared to normal weight individuals

The surgeons at The N.E.W. Program of Orange County have performed nearly one thousand weight loss procedures. To date, 100 percent of patients have had a laparoscopic operation–even patients weighing more than 600 pounds!

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