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Pregnancy after Weight Loss Surgery – Cathy Shares Her Story

Some of life’s greatest moments and accomplishments can’t be measured. The arrival of Cathy Dodson’s son, James Matthew Dodson (Mattie), is one of those moments. “I delivered my miracle baby on April 25, 2014,” she says. That day may not have been possible, Cathy says, if it weren’t for a decision she made in 2012. “I had been working on getting healthy for a couple of years, but I could not get the extra weight off,” Cathy explains. “On December 3, 2012 I had a sleeve gastrectomy performed by Dr. Brandon Varnell. My life has completely changed since then.”

Following surgery, Cathy began exercising as she started to lose weight. “I took up running,” she adds, “first a minute at a time then gradually building up to where I could run five miles at a time.” She set her sights on a half marathon for her 40th birthday in 2013. However, an injury forced her to take a break from running. After a few weeks of rest, Cathy started to resume her training. “I could tell something was different. A couple of weeks later, I took a pregnancy test, completely expecting it to be negative, but to my surprise it was positive!”

The pregnancy, Cathy says, was something she and her husband had always wanted. “We have been married 13 and a half years,” she says. “I had always wanted to be a mom, but I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and was never able to conceive. My husband was not in favor of adoption and I was not in favor of fertility treatments, so I knew if it was going to happen, it was going to have to happen naturally.”

Cathy wanted to make sure she had the best nutrition for her and her baby throughout the pregnancy. “As with all pregnancies, nutrition starts before conception,” explains Rene Norman, RD/LD, dietitian for The Center for Bariatrics at Bailey Medical Center.  “This is especially important for women that have had bariatric surgery.” Rene advises patients, who would like to pursue pregnancy after bariatric surgery, to talk to their dietitian and health care provider before trying to get pregnant. “It’s recommended to wait at least 18 months before conceiving.  During the rapid weight loss phase, it is difficult to optimize your nutrition while you are getting used to a new stomach pouch.”

Taking a comprehensive daily multi-vitamin is not only important after surgery, but before surgery as well “to improve your nutrition status to help correct deficiencies and have better healing after surgery,” Rene shares. Additionally, at least three months prior to pregnancy and throughout the pregnancy, it is important to take pre-natal vitamins. “With conception, taking a supplement with folic acid before conception considerably decreases the risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect like spina bifida. Folic acid is found in enriched grains, beans and fruits and vegetables. These are foods that are limited in the food choices in the few months after surgery. Other nutrients for special consideration during pregnancy include B12, vitamin D, iron and calcium.  Calorie needs increase by the second trimester.”

Rene recommends working with a dietitian throughout pregnancy to develop a nutrition plan to support both mom and baby’s health. 

“My pregnancy, which was a complete miracle, was absolutely wonderful,” Cathy recalls. “I did not have morning sickness and only gained 22 pounds the whole pregnancy. I know I would not have this amazing gift had I not had the courage to have my sleeve surgery and change my health for the better.”

To those considering bariatric surgery, Cathy offers this advice. “Don't hesitate if you are considering this surgery,” she says. “Go to the seminar and start the process. Your miracles are waiting for you!”