Over 50% of women of childbearing age in the U.S. are either overweight or obese. In the U.K., the percentage of obese pregnant women has doubled in the past 19 years, from 7.6% to 15.6%.1 Obesity is closely linked to diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, and evidence is now mounting that excess maternal weight can have dangerous effects on fetal development.2
Obesity contributes to infertility, making it more difficult to become pregnant. Obese women who do become pregnant are at risk for serious complications such as pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes, and are more likely to require Caesarian section and labor induction.
The pregnancy of an obese women itself is at risk – obese women are more likely to experience early miscarriage or spontaneous intrauterine demise.3
The children of obese women are at increased risk of excessive birth weight, neural tube defects, and congenital heart disease.
Maternal overeating during pregnancy is even thought to produce adaptive cues that may predispose the developing fetus to obesity during childhood or adulthood.4
This is a serious issue that needs to be brought to women’s attention. All women want to have healthy pregnancies and to give their babies the healthiest possible start. Achieving a healthy weight prior to becoming pregnant can help to prevent devastating complications for mother and baby. Obesity is not benign, and it is not just a cosmetic issue – it is a serious health hazard, especially during pregnancy.
1. Heslehurst N, Rankin J, Wilkinson JR, et al. A nationally representative study of maternal obesity in England, UK: trends in incidence and demographic inequalities in 619,323 births, 1989–2007. International Journal of Obesity (2010) 34, 420–428
2. Wiley-Blackwell (2010, January 26). Pregnant women who are overweight put their infants at risk, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 23, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2010/01/100120121558.htm
Walters MR, Taylor JS. Maternal obesity: consequences and prevention strategies. Nurs Womens Health. 2009 Dec;13(6):486-94; quiz 495.
3. Satpathy HK, Fleming A, Frey D. Maternal obesity and pregnancy. Postgrad Med. 2008 Sep 15;120(3):E01-9.
4. Wax JR. Risks and management of obesity in pregnancy: current controversies. Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol. 2009 Apr;21(2):117-23.
USDA/Agricultural Research Service (2010, March 15). Baby's obesity risk: What's the mother's influence?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 17, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100315125551.htm