Obesity and Pregnancy

Posted by Vaishnavi C on

By Kavya DS

Women who are overweight or obese during pregnancy face several possible health risks, including high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, and an increased chance of needing a Cesarean delivery. Women are counseled not to be too thin or too heavy before getting pregnant, and new research gives even more reason for women to watch their weight: obese pregnant women stand a much greater chance of miscarrying Obese women suffer about eight more fetal and infant deaths per 1,000 births than women who enter pregnancy at a recommended weight.

Pre-eclampsia -  pregnancy related high blood pressure — was responsible for a greater proportion of the obesity-related deaths. But obesity was also associated with an increased risk of other conditions. Obese pregnant women are more likely to develop gestational diabetes, which manifests itself during pregnancy. Although researchers controlled for factors including the mothers’ age, ethnicity, smoking status, socioeconomic status and the birth weight and gestational age of the babies, they did not analyze how diet, exercise, alcohol or caffeine consumption may have influenced pregnancy risks.

Gestational diabetes is diabetes that begins during pregnancy. Women who have had gestational diabetes are at a higher lifetime risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes.Labour and delivery

Maternal death - There is evidence that obesity is associated with a higher risk of maternal death. These deaths in obese women are associated with many causes of direct and indirect death, including pre-eclampsia and pulmonary embolism.

Postpartum complications

Following delivery, obese women have an increased risk of postpartum haemorrhage. Several studies have also shown an increased incidence of genital tract infection, urinary tract infection and wound infection . Maternal obesity is linked to reduced breastfeeding rates, both in terms of breastfeeding initiation and duration. Possible reasons include physical issues such as difficulty with correct positioning of the baby, psychosocial issues, or endocrine issues such as a lower prolactin response to suckling. Women with obesity may therefore benefit from extra support for breastfeeding. This support should be provided in the antenatal period, the immediate puerperal and after discharge from hospital.

Obesity Related Health Risks for Fetuses

The developing fetuses of obese women also are at increased risk for health problems. For example, researchers found a connection between maternal obesity and neural tube defects, in which the brain or spinal column does not form properly in early development. Also, research suggests that obesity increases a woman's chance of giving birth to a child with a heart defect by around 15%.

Gestational diabetes also can cause problems for a newborn, including dangerously low blood sugar, large body size that may cause injuries at birth, and high bilirubin levels, which can cause other health problems. Children whose mothers had gestational diabetes also are at a higher lifetime risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes.


Seek guidance about nutrition and weight reduction from a health care provider if they are overweight and considering getting pregnant. Good nutrition, staying active, and gaining the right amount of weight are important ways to promote a healthy pregnancy.

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