Let’s talk Contraception after bariatric surgery
Peoples’ reasons to have bariatric (weight loss) surgery are very personal with different motives and goals for wanting the surgery. Some of the more common reasons are to improve overall health, particularly their physical and mental health, reduce co-morbidities, engage with life more, and quite often to start or complete their family.
Increasing evidence strongly suggests bariatric surgery improves fertility and some pregnancy-related outcomes and reduces the risk of fetal morbidity, mortality, and maternal pregnancy complications. However, one very important factor after having bariatric surgery and wanting to start a family is, it is highly recommended you delay conceiving for 12-18 months due to the rapid and significant weight loss and nutritional insufficiencies, which may lead to adverse pregnancy outcomes. Your bariatric team, obstetrician and GP play a key role in discussing the options for contraception following bariatric surgery.
Oral contraceptive pills (OCP’s) are the most used contraceptive methods worldwide, and have a failure rate of 5.5% per year, for people who have not had bariatric surgery (Chea, Gao, Mo et al 2022). This raises concerns of increased failure rates after bariatric surgery, as most weight loss surgery procedures significantly affect the digestive physiology (Weiss. R 2019). Various medical groups have recommended avoiding OCP‘s in patients having or who have had bariatric surgery because of the significant changes that occur with the malabsorptive components of the gastro-intestinal system. There are numerous contraceptive options available, so talk with your GP or specialist to find out what contraception suits your lifestyle best (Chea, Gao, Mo et al 2022).
Let’s not forget women or couples who have completed having their families or have chosen not to go down the family pathway, it is also important for this group to speak with their GP or specialist to ensure they are adequately protected from unplanned pregnancy.
The important message to take from this post is, talk with your GP or specialist about birth control options, before embarking on your bariatric surgery journey to ensure you are adequately protected and well informed.
Tash Fitzgerald RN – Bariatric Nurse Educator
Weiss R.E. 2019. Pregnancy and birth control options after bariatric surgery. Health Central. Viewed 19th November, 2023.
Cheah. S, Gas,Y, Mo, Sh, Rigas.G, Fisher. O, Chan. D, Chapman. Mj, Talbot M. Fertility pregnancy and post partum management after bariatric surgery: a narrative review 2022. Viewed 19th November, 2023. https://doi.org/10.5694/mja2.51373