Experts are of the view that weight loss surgery (bariatric surgery) regulates menstrual cycle and fights diabetes too. Obesity often causes hormonal imbalances in women and they sometimes stop getting their periods or get irrergular periods. A new study has suggested that weight-loss surgery can help regulate the monthly cycles of obese women. Besides, it also takes care of other problems triggered by imbalanced hormones like excessive hair growth and skin problems that often accompany significant weight gain.
Study author Chandhana Paka, a fellow in minimally invasive gynecological surgery at Stanford University School of Medicine explained, “Obesity is a huge problem in the United States. We wanted to see if bariatric surgery [weight-loss surgery] was a solution to helping restore menstruation in morbidly obese women whose periods have become irregular or disappeared.”
A high body-mass index in women leads to hormonal changes and causes the production of more male hormones. Some of the side effects of such hormonal disturbance is irregular or absent menstrual cycle, hence leading to fertility problems in the obese women.
The study was presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, in San Diego this week. As a resident at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City in 2008 and 2009, Paka and her colleagues studied women and conducted the research.
Paka and team monitored 126 women planning to undergo bariatric surgery. The surgery effectively reduced the stomach size of obese patients and helped them cut back on food intake in order to reach a healthy weight.
The women under observation were between the age 18 to 49 and had an average BMI of 46 (normal BMI ranges between 18 to 24). None was yet in perimenopause, the time approaching menopause. 52% of the women had regular periods; 39% reported irregular periods and 22% reported no periods before the surgery.
A year after the surgery, Paka and team found that the average BMI of the women came down to 33, and 99% of irregular menses gave way to regular periods. About 82% of those whose had no periods started having their menses.
Paka said, “We saw women who within a month after surgery were having their periods again. The majority of obese women who had irregular or no menstruation before surgery reported regular monthly periods after surgery. We were surprised to see how fast that can happen.”
Besides, the women were also found to have got rid of problems like excess hair growth, hair loss (alopecia), acne, and a skin condition called acanthosis nigricans — a darkening that can appear in the folds of the skin, like underarms and around the neck.
Dr. Thomas Price, an associate professor of reproductive endocrinology and fertility at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., explained the findings, “All of the results are easily explainable by the hormone changes associated with weight loss.”
However, he did caution that bariatric surgery is not the solution to all problems associated with obesity. He said, “It doesn’t get into the increase in hypertension that goes along with obesity, the increase in arthritis because of trauma to the joints, the increase in sleep apnea that can lead to hypertension and heart disease. The risk for endometrial cancer goes up. There’s no joking around with the risks associated with obesity.”
Dr Price also pointed out that women wishing to conceive after the surgery might be advised to wait as long as a year before they try to conceive.
Dr Paka also talked about patients seeking fertility solutions after the surgery need gynaecological advice. She said, “If the gynecologist is the gatekeeper of a woman’s health, that means it’s our responsibility to say, ‘Hey, you’re having some problems with your weight. Are you exercising enough? Are you eating well?’”
While Paka does not claim that surgery is the ultimate fertility solution for obese women trying to conceive, this is certainly an option “that needs to be available.”