Researching how bariatric surgery affects pregnancy, delivery and child health

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The use of bariatric surgery (surgery for weight loss) has increased dramatically in recent decades. Martin Neovius is studying how effective this type of surgery is, its associated risks and its cost effectiveness. One important element is the study of whether the obesity-related risks associated with pregnancy and delivery change after bariatric surgery. 

Martin Neovius. Foto: Creo Media Group.Around one in a hundred pregnant women in Sweden has undergone gastric bypass or other surgery for obesity. This proportion has increased dramatically over the last decade, both in Sweden and abroad, making it a matter of urgency to determine how these interventions affect pregnancy, delivery and the health of the child. 

“There are large knowledge gaps in this area,” Martin Neovius states. “Severe obesity increases the risk of complications in pregnancy and delivery. Our research reveals that loss of weight induced by bariatric surgery results not only in decreased risks but also increased risks.” 

Neovius’ group has shown that, on the one hand, bariatric surgery dramatically reduces the risk of gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia and high birth weight while, on the other hand, it in¬creases the risk that the child will be born too small and too early. 

In addition, Martin Neovius is looking at other aspects of bariatric surgery – how effective it is for different groups of patients, resultant risks, and how it affects healthcare costs. 

“This surgery results in large and sustained weight loss, and has significant positive effects on diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” he comments. “For the majority of patients, the quality of life im¬proves for at least 10 years. But we also know that there is a group who come out very badly – due to medical complications or psychological reasons. Here, the need for more knowledge is great. In an ongoing study we look at suicide and nonfatal self-harm in this patient group compared with individuals treated non-surgically for their obesity.”

Martin Neovius 

Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at the Department of Medicine, Solna

Martin Neovius was born in Kristianstad in 1976. He studied medicine at Lund University and has a master’s degree in business administration and economics from the Stockholm School of Eco¬nomics in Stockholm. In 2005, Neovius defended his PhD at KI and since then has continued with research at KI. 

He became a Senior Lecturer in 2010. His current research is funded by the National Institutes of Health, NIH.  On 1 March 2017, Martin Neovius was appointed Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at Karolinska Institutet.

Text: Anders Nilsson, translated from Swedish, first published in “From Cell to Society” 2017. 

EndocrinologyProfessor