How bariatric surgery could help resolve some infertility issues in women

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Infertility is on the rise in the United States. Those difficulties are often rooted in obesity, and dealing with weight can be the solution.

As more and more adults struggle with obesity, doctors are also seeing more couples struggle to have a baby. Extra weight can affect fertility for both men and women. It causes problems for six percent of the women seeking their first pregnancy.

Dr. Elizabeth Renza-Stingone, a Temple Health bariatric surgeon, says extra pounds trigger hormone imbalances. For some, PCOS, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, is an added factor.

"The excess fat gets converted to excess estrogen, and then that gets converted to excess testosterone," she said.

Obstetrician Patricia Mattingly said even a few pounds makes a difference.

"Any weight reduction can improve someone's individual chance of conceiving and getting pregnant and having a healthy baby," she said.

But Dr. Renza-Stingone said bariatric surgery, either the gastric bypass or the sleeve procedure, can make a dramatic improvement.

"Especially the bypass patients do rapidly lose weight in the first three months," she said.

However, women shouldn't attempt pregnancy for about two years after surgery, until their weight and vitamin levels stabilize. That's to protect a fetus from potential malnutrition due to a mother's rapid weight loss.

"If the B-12 gets really low after bypass, there could be damage to the developing baby," said Dr. Renza-Stingone.

The Temple doctors say reliable birth control, such as Norplant or an IUD, is a must, because oral contraceptives may not be absorbed properly.

Getting to a healthy weight also reduces other complications for mother and baby.

"Healthy weight women have a lower risk of things like gestational diabetes, hypertension, or preeclampsia, as well as a lower risk of certain congenital or fetal anomalies," said Dr. Mattingly.

Drs. Mattingly and Renza-Stingone also note that weight loss can also make women healthier for the rigors of parenthood.
Copyright © 2021 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.