With the perfection of the gastric bypass treatment for obesity, teen girls are choosing the procedure over traditional weight loss efforts more often in the United States.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference, the increased popularity of gastric bypass surgery in teen girls may increase the risk of birth defects including mental retardation, paralysis and neural tube defects.

After gastric bypass surgery, nutritional intake is greatly reduced. For many women, daily multivitamins and Vitamin B12 shots are required to maintain personal health. When a fetus starts pulling from the body’s resources and mom cannot consume or absorb enough nutrients to maintain good health, nutritional deficiencies can occur leading to birth defects.

After coming in contact with an infant born with a neural tube defect after the mother had undergone gastric bypass in her teens, researchers looked into six more cases. All cases reported the same type of neural tube defects and all mothers received the same gastric bypass surgery in their teens. Folic acid is required in increased amounts before and during the first weeks of pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects, but women with altered absorption due to weight loss surgery may not absorb enough folic acid to protect the baby.

According to researcher Diana Farmer MD, “We postulate that the malabsorption of folate, poor compliance with nutritional supplements and a higher risk of unintended pregnancies places young women at an increased risk for pregnancies complicated with neural tube defects.”

Source: Diana Farmer MD. American Academy of Pediatrics. 5 October, 2010.