Pregnancy and the Gastric Band

by Christine on September 23rd, 2010

filed under Gastric Banding Surgery, General Information

Pregnancy and the Gastric Band

When I underwent my gastric banding surgery, I was surprised that there was not more information available about issues concerning pregnancy.  This seems particularly important because the band may severely limit the ability to consume food, perhaps a healthy variety of food, which is important when a woman becomes pregnant.  In fact, with all my consultations with doctors, the only question on this topic that was posed to me was, “do you believe you may be pregnant?”  They confirmed any pregnancy doubts with two pregnancy tests prior to surgery; had I received a positive test, I believe I would have been denied the surgery.

I have one “real life” friend named Andrea that had the gastric banding surgery performed perhaps six years ago. Two years ago she had a baby. When we were talking about the band, I asked her if she had the band taken out when she discovered that she was pregnant. “Oh no!” she said. (I’m paraphrasing here.) “There’s a gross misconception that you need to ‘eat for two’ when you’re pregnant. It’s not true: you only need to eat 10% more than you normally would. So if you eat 1500 calories a day, then you only need to eat an extra 100-150 calories for the baby. That’s totally do-able with the gastric band in place.”

Good point, and it made me realize that I knew very little about pregnancy and the gastric band. I hope this blog article is informative for anyone who has the band who is considering getting pregnant or who has recently discovered that they are pregnant!

What effects does the gastric band have on pregnancy? For instance, does the lack of eating decrease a woman’s fertility rate?

Actually, the gastric band may be able to increase a woman’s ability to get pregnant. According to Ajay Goyal, MD, FACS from the New Jersey Bariatric Center, “being seriously overweight causes an increase in the level of two key hormones related to fertility – estrogen and testosterone…[an increase in these hormones are] directly related to infertility, causing irregular or heavy periods.”  A high BMI increases the risk for pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, hypertension, and spontaneous abortions.

The weight loss that comes with gastric banding surgery may actually improve a woman’s fertility by helping her achieve a healthy, regular menstrual cycle.

A recently study in Australia compared birth outcomes for pregnant women in three categories: women that have had gastric banding surgery, morbidly obese women, and a sample of normal-weight women. The study showed that babies produced from banded patients were healthy. Furthermore, women that had the gastric band gained significantly less weight during pregnancy and had significantly lower pregnancy-induced hypertension than obese patients.  The babies’ mean birth rates were comparable in all three subject groups.  This study is good news for women who have had gastric banding surgery and want to get pregnant.

It’s important to note that any weight loss surgery (gastric banding or gastric bypass) itself does not directly impact an individual’s fertility.  Weight loss surgery impacts the stomach and intestines and should not disrupt the functioning of the baby-growing organs in women or the baby-making-seeds in men.

Can you have the surgery if you are planning on getting pregnant in the future?

Absolutely.  Most bariatric centers recommend that you wait at least one year before getting pregnant. This is because surgeons want you to lose weight and increase your ability to have a safe pregnancy. Achieving a healthier weight, which may also eliminate diabetes and heart problems, will help achieve a healthy pregnancy.  Practicing safe sex for this one-year period is very important. (Note that gastric bypass patients may need to discuss oral contraceptives with their surgeons; not all oral contraceptives may be absorbed after the procedure.)

What happens if you get pregnant while you have the gastric band? Will you need to have it taken out? How safe will your baby be if you have the band?

You probably won’t have to get the band or port taken out. Unless you have complications, you should not need to get your band out. However, you may need to make an appointment to see your bariatric surgeon to have a small amount of saline taken out of the band so that you can eat a little bit more.

Despite the assurances of bariatric centers attesting to the safety of the band, the results of at least one Austrian study from 2001 were a little disturbing.  The researchers followed 215 morbidly obese women of reproductive age that had had gastric banding surgery.  Of those women, seven had unexpected pregnancies. Five of those were full term and two women had first trimester miscarriages. Two women had serious band complications (1 intragastric band migration and 1 balloon defect) which required re-operation.

Other studies are more assuring. A 2001 study followed 20 women (who had gastric banding) who had completed a total of 22 pregnancies. All 22 pregnancies were successful and complications were minimal.

One gastric banding patient had a remarkably easier pregnancy after receiving weight loss surgery as compared to her pregnancies before surgery.

I had two miserable pregnancies both resulting in emergency caesareans. In the second one it was difficult to monitor the baby in labour as the fat made it hard to pick up his heartbeat. I had to have an emergency caesarean which was awful. The theatre table was a bit narrow and I was terrified of falling off. The pregnancy was awful too as my diabetes meant the baby got very big. I hated having the growth scans since the scanners struggle to get good pictures and I felt really guilty.

After my gastric bypass I tried pregnancy once again. It couldn’t have been more different. I was more comfortable, less breathless and everything was so much easier. I had a normal sized baby and was thrilled to give birth naturally. (See source)

Will you need to get the band deflated when you find out that you’re pregnant? This is a point of contention in the medical community, but more recent evidence says probably not. Most recent studies have shown that when the band is totally deflated, pregnant women gain more weight than is healthy for the baby, which in turn is linked to an increase in the incidence of fetal macrosmia and gestational diabetes.  Most surgeons these days are recommending that you keep your band inflated, or to take out only a small amount of saline from the band.

However, one UK website said that the band should be emptied at 12 weeks pregnancy.  Another resource said that the band should not be re-inflated until after breastfeeding has fully completed.  These conflicting opinions may be confusing to you, so it’s best if you discuss your options with your bariatric surgeon.

Will I be able to take in enough nutrients for both me and the baby?

Everyone who has had gastric banding surgery should take nutritional supplements. If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, this is even more important.  The gastric band means that you eat less; eating less means that you are consuming fewer vitamins and nutrients.  One researcher states:

Key supplements to increase include iron to form new red blood cells, calcium for mineralization of fetal skeleton, folic acid to prevent birth defects, vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B12 and vitamin A. Women should also take protein supplements in the form of protein shakes or protein bars as one cannot take the recommended daily allowance of 60 grams of proteins per day from foods. I recommend taking at least half or 30 grams in supplements and the rest from foods rich in proteins.

The New Jersey Bariatric Center has a very informational list of proteins shakes and protein-rich foods that are recommended for pregnant band patients.  See this website.

One source states that a mother’s weight loss has a beneficial effect on fetal and infant outcomes, such as normal birth weight.

I found out that I’m pregnant! Now what?

1.       Contact your General Physical (GP) immediately to confirm your pregnancy with blood tests.

2.       Contact your bariatric surgeon to let them know and to schedule a time to chat with them about it. Don’t be in a hurry to get the gastric band deflated because you may not need it completely reduced.

3.       Arrange blood tests to assess your nutritional status. You may have nutritional deficiencies because of your surgery. Double-check what your nutritional health is by having a simple blood test done.

4.       Follow your doctor’s instructions regarding nutritional supplements. What you might need for supplements is probably different from what is recommended for non-weight-loss-surgery patients, so make sure you’re not following “blind” advice from a book. Instead, follow the instructions set out for you specifically by your own GP and surgeon.

5.       Do not continue to lose weight during pregnancy. You probably aren’t going to need to pack on 50 pounds for the baby, but it also isn’t going to be healthy to continue to lose weight. You will need to adjust your priorities and mindset; you’ll need to change gears from “weight-loss mode” to “healthy baby mode.”

Resources for Further Reading

Abenhaim HA, Kinch RA, Morin L, Benjamin A, Usher R. Effect of pre-pregnancy body mass index categories on obstetrical and neonatal outcomes. Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2007. 275(1): 39-43.

Beard et al. Reproductive considerations and pregnancy after bariatric surgery: Current evidence and recommendations. Obes Surg 2008. 18(8): 1023-1027.

Biensman-Pailleux J and Gaucherand P. Laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding and pregnancy. J Gynecol Obstet Biol Reprod. 2007. 26(8):770-6.

Coupaye et al. Nutritional consequences of adjustable gastric banding and gastric bypass: A 1-year prospective study. 2008. 19(1): 56-65.

Dixon JB et al. Birth outcomes in obese women after laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding. Obstet Gynecol 2005 Nov; 106:965-72. Abstract online at:

Dixon JB, Dixon ME, O’Brien PE.  2001. Pregnancy after lap band surgery: management of the band to achieve healthy weight outcomes. Obesity Surgery (11) 59-65. Abstract available at:

Jasaitis Y., Sergent F., Bridoux V., Paquet M. Marpeau L., Teniere P. Management of pregnancies after adjustable gastric banding. 2007. 36(8): 764-9.

Karmon A and Scheiner E. Pregnancy after bariatric surgery: A comprehensive review. Arch Gynecol Obstet 2008. 277(5):381-388.

Martin lF, Finigan KM, Nolan TE. 2000. Pregnancy after adjustable gastric banding. Obstet Gynecol. 95(6): 927-30.

Realize Gastric Band. [accessed 03 May 2010]

Weiss, Helmut, H Nehoda, B Labeck, K Hourmont, C Marth, and  Aigner. 2001. Pregnancies after Adjustable Gastric Banding.  Obesity Surgery. 11(3) 303-306. Abstract available online at:

Whitehead R.G. Dietary Reference Values. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 1992. 51:29-34.

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  • Allanmklein

    Every now and then New Christine is squashed by old, nerdy Christine. Are ya knocked up ? Can I have those 10 minutes of my life back,…..
    Love ya…

    • Christine

      I’ve actually had a *TON* of people email in the last month thanking me for the gastric banding resources I’ve compiled (link at the top of my blog page). So this was just another nerdy topic to add to my growing compilation of gastric banding stuff. Sorry it was boring — I’ll post the usual “a day in the life” later today. And no, praise god, I’m not pregnant. Nor do I ever want to be!

  • Amandakiska

    Great info! I communicate with several women through my blog who have had pregnancies while banded and all the information you list seems pretty valid, at least anecdotally. I would add though that not every patient finds that, “… the band so severely limits the ability to consume food, especially a healthy variety of food…”. I haven’t found ANY foods that I cannot eat. Certainly the quantities are greatly reduced, but I tolerate all foods.

  • Maria

    I have had two relatively easy pregnancies with my band — and I’m very glad I got banded BEFORE having kids. Both times I was unfilled completely, but that’s just my experience with my wonky band and hormones. If I had a penny for how many times I was asked about my band being taken out when pregnant, I’d be a millionaire!

    • Babydoll-18

      Hi, Do you need to have all your fills taken out? Some sights say you dont others say you do…I am 5 weeks pregnant and totally confused..advice would be great 😉

  • Rachael-davies-22

    Thankyou for this. am going to have the band fitted but one of my concerns was that I didn`t know weather it was safe to have a band and be pregnant.