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For the study, the researchers examined data on more than 33,000 births in Sweden between 2007 and 2014.
Of these, nearly 3,000 children were born to mothers who had a type of weight-loss surgery called gastric bypass before getting pregnant. The rest were born to women who weighed about the same as the others did before weight-loss surgery -- more than 260 pounds.
The risk of major birth defects was 3.4% in children born to women who had gastric bypass surgery -- similar to the 3.5% rate among those born to normal-weight women, the researchers reported.
The risk of major birth defects was 4.9% in children born to the women who were still obese, according to the study published Oct. 15 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The findings challenge long-held concerns that weight-loss surgery could increase the odds of major birth defects, according to the researchers.
"This study shows that weight-loss and improved blood sugar control in the mother can actually result in a lower risk of birth defects in the child," said study author Martin Neovius, a professor of medicine at Karolinska Institute in Solna, Sweden.
"It should help reduce fears that bariatric [weight-loss] surgery increases the risk of birth defects in the event of future pregnancy, assuming that surgery patients take their recommended nutritional supplements," he said in a university news release.
-- Robert Preidt
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