WEDNESDAY, Oct. 10, 2018 -- Obesity makes pregnancy complications more likely. But new research suggests that women who've undergone weight-loss surgery might have a safer delivery.
"We know that obesity and overweight are dangerous in connection with childbirth," said study author Dr. Olof Stephansson, of Karolinska Institute in Solna, Sweden.
Weight-loss [bariatric] surgery "is by far your best option if you want a lasting weight reduction over time," he said in an institute news release.
The study of almost 6,000 women found weight-loss surgery was tied to fewer cesarean sections, infections, tears, hemorrhages or post-term deliveries.
Obesity in pregnancy is a growing problem. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of American women who were obese at the start of their pregnancy jumped 8 percent between 2011 and 2015. And overweight rates at conception increased 2 percent during that same period.
For the new study, researchers compared the deliveries of more than 1,400 women who had undergone weight-loss surgery and lost a significant amount of weight with the deliveries of almost 4,500 women who did not have this type of surgery.
"The effects were quite salient, and all of those we studied were to the benefit of the women who'd had surgery," Stephansson said. "There are a lower proportion of C-sections, fewer induced deliveries, a lower proportion of post-term deliveries, less frequent epidurals and fewer cases of uterine inertia, infection, perineal tears and hemorrhaging," he said.
The findings of this observational study don't prove cause and effect, but the researchers suggested that weight loss before pregnancy helped ensure a safer childbirth. But they noted that previous studies have shown that women who've had weight-loss surgery are at slightly higher risk for premature delivery or having smaller babies.
"It's therefore not as simple as just advising every woman who's overweight to have bariatric surgery," Stephansson said. "But going by the results of this study, it has positive effects for mothers. More studies are needed in which we weigh up outcomes so that we can give a more general recommendation."
The study was published recently in PLOS Medicine.
The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases provides more on weight-loss surgery.
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