The reasons behind the decision to undergo vertical sleeve gastrectomy (VSG or gastric sleeve) are as individual as the patients themselves. But it’s usually some combination of health and appearance (no judgment on the appearance part—we all deserve to look and feel our best!).
For some women, however, the driving force behind gastric sleeve is a desire to improve their PCOS. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal condition that plagues about 10 percent of women. Symptoms affect the outside—acne and facial hair being frequent problems—and the inside, commonly leading to issues such as diabetes and heart disease. It’s also the most common cause of infertility in women, as it affects the ability to ovulate.
Scientists don’t have a great explanation for why some women get PCOS, though it seems to be a lovely mix of genetics and behavioral factors. About half of PCOS patients are morbidly obese, which leaves a chicken-and-egg conundrum: which came first, the PCOS or the weight?
One thing has been shown to dramatically improve PCOS and its effects: weight loss. I receive many referrals from OB/GYNs because their patients are stuck in a Catch-22 situation wherein they desperately need to lose weight in order to become pregnant or relieve serious health issues, but PCOS is making it nearly impossible to do so.
While it’s typically difficult for PCOS patients to lose weight, the good news is that VSG often can help when other avenues don’t work. Shedding a significant amount of weight is the gold-standard when it comes to experiencing fewer PCOS symptoms. And, yes, it usually takes a substantial reduction—not a few pounds—before symptoms improve, especially if your goal is to become pregnant. The kind of weight loss that happens with gastric sleeve.
The even better news: One study found that every participant who’d been unable to get pregnant before bariatric surgery was able to conceive within three years of undergoing a procedure.
I do want to add a word of warning here. It’s certainly possible to get pregnant right after gastric sleeve, but I don’t recommend it. Why? Your body needs time to heal and get to a more stable weight before adding the stress of pregnancy. My advice for women is to wait about twelve months; like everything else related to gastric sleeve, though, I always provide personalized recommendations for each patient.
Gastric sleeve isn’t a cure for PCOS, but it can deliver life-changing (and life-giving!) results for PCOS patients. With the return of normal ovulation, pregnancy becomes possible. And those nine months will likely be healthier for both mom and baby, thanks to a reduction or elimination of complications often brought on by obesity during pregnancy.
Whether PCOS patients hope to achieve pregnancy or improve other health issues, know that having PCOS won’t complicate the VSG itself or the recovery. Again, everyone is different, but in general, PCOS doesn’t raise your risk for side effects.
If you have PCOS and are interesting in finding out how gastric sleeve can help, get in touch! We’d love to get to know your unique story and explore all the ways Endobariatric can help you achieve your dreams.