New Study Will Improve Pregnancy Counselling For Women Who Have Undergone Obesity Surgery

Posted on 07.10.2020

After bariatric surgery, the waistline is slimmer, but the operation can have consequences for women who want to get pregnant. A postdoc study is set to look into both positive and negative consequences.

Research shows that the risk of gestational diabetes, high blood pressure during pregnancy and having an oversized baby is reduced in women who have undergone bariatric surgery (obesity surgery, Ed.) as compared with overweight women who have not had surgery. On the other hand, the risk of giving birth to an undersized baby is greater in women who have had bariatric surgery. There can be many reasons for this, including reduced vitamin and mineral intake, wide blood sugar fluctuations or the intestinal hormonal changes observed in women who have undergone surgery.

Medical doctor and PhD Lene Ring Madsen has focused on obesity surgery throughout her research career. For example, she wrote her PhD thesis on this type of operation in relation to type 2 diabetes and bone health. In her postdoc project, supported by a DKK 1.2 million grant from the Danish Diabetes Academy, she will continue her work on the relationship between obesity surgery and pregnancy – an area where research and knowledge are in short supply.

Explaining the three overall themes of the project, Lene Ring Madsen says: ‘In this project, we will investigate the relationship between bariatric surgery on the mother and foetal growth in a subsequent pregnancy, the baby’s birth weight, the child’s growth in infancy, the child’s consumption of medication and contacts with the health service, as compared with the children of women who have not had bariatric surgery. We will also study the mother’s consumption of medication and her contact with the health service as compared with women who have not had surgery. Finally, we will look at the optimum time to become pregnant following bariatric surgery so as to avoid having an undersized baby’.

Wide-ranging collaboration

The project will be based at the Steno Diabetes Center Aarhus, where Professor Daniel Witte leads the epidemiological research unit, and collaboration has been arranged for the project with Professor Dorte Møller Jensen of the Steno Diabetes Center Odense, which carries out research on blood sugar fluctuations during pregnancy in women who have had bariatric surgery performed, looking into the effect of these fluctuations on the growth of the baby. The project will also include collaboration with Belgium’s Leuven University, which has in recent years collected data from 400 pregnant women who have previously undergone obesity surgery.

Overall, with this project, we want to learn about pregnancy following obesity surgery and the short- and long-term consequences of the operation for mother and baby. With this knowledge, we can advise women who are considering, or have undergone, bariatric surgery with regard to pregnancy, and ensure better treatment of mothers and babies alike’, says Lene Ring Madsen, who will complete her medical specialist training in endocrinology at Hospital Unit West and Aarhus University Hospital toward the end of November 2020.


Medical doctor and PhD Lene Ring Madsen, born 1978

Has been awarded DKK 1.2 million by the Danish Diabetes Academy.

Project title: Pregnancy following bariatric surgery: Consequences for offspring and mothers

Research centres: Steno Diabetes Center Aarhus & Odense University Hospital

Contact: + 45 2244 1924

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