Gastric bypass surgery may reverse infertility in women

There are many health benefits associated with weight loss for those with obesity, but regaining fertility may not be the first you’d think of.

Yet a study suggests bariatric surgery — commonly known as gastric bypass surgery — may provide hope for morbidly obese women of child-bearing age who are currently infertile.

The reason is that the surgery can be used to treat polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a hormone imbalance that affects up to 10% of women and between one-third and a half of overweight and obese women.

“Not many patients come to a bariatric surgeon to treat infertility problems,” said Mohammad Jamal, MD, FACS, study co-author and Clinical Assistant Professor of Surgery at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City. “But this study suggests that women with morbid obesity, who are infertile secondary to PCOS, may have a new surgical option. Many other studies have shown bariatric surgery can improve or resolve a multitude of diseases and conditions. It appears that infertility now joins that list.”

In the study, researchers from the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics report that 100 percent of the morbidly obese women who were diagnosed with PCOS related infertility, and desired children, became pregnant within three years following gastric bypass surgery.

A review of medical records of 566 morbidly obese women who had gastric bypass surgery over a period of nine years revealed 31 patients between the ages of 22 and 42 who had PCOS before surgery. Six post-menopausal patients, and five patients lost to follow-up, were excluded. The remaining 20 patients, average age 32, were contacted by telephone. Fourteen of them were fertile prior to surgery or did not desire to become pregnant after surgery.

The remaining six women, who had been diagnosed with infertility before surgery, and still desired pregnancy, became pregnant within three years of gastric bypass surgery. Doctors advise women not to try to conceive until at least 18 months after bariatric surgery due to surgery-related changes that could affect fetal development.

Before surgery the women had an average body mass index (BMI) of 52, and after surgery had an average excess weight loss of nearly 60 percent. Menstruation corrected in 82 percent of the women and nearly 80 percent no longer had Type 2 diabetes.

You can read more about the study at Newswise.