Women with obesity are at greater risk for health problems during pregnancy including depression, gestational diabetes and high blood pressure compared with healthy weight women, according to a new analysis led by Trinity College Dublin.
The paper, published in the journal Obesity Reviews, recommends that women with obesity should lose weight before they conceive and highlights the current lack of support available to these women.
Maternal obesity is associated with a range of health problems for both mothers and babies during pregnancy, delivery and the postnatal period. Problems can include gestational diabetes, high blood-pressure, pre-eclampsia, depression, higher levels of instrumental and caesarean birth, and surgical site infection.
Maternal obesity is also linked to greater risk of preterm birth, large-for-gestational-age babies, fetal defects, congenital anomalies, and perinatal death. Furthermore, breastfeeding initiation rates are lower and there is greater risk of early breastfeeding cessation in women with obesity compared with healthy weight women.
The findings also showed that maternal obesity is the most significant factor leading to obesity in their children and, coupled with excessive weight gain in pregnancy, also results in long-term obesity for women.
“Up to 1 in 5 pregnant women in Ireland suffer from obesity, a serious health problem that is not currently being adequately addressed and that can have significant implications for both them and their babies,” said Dr. Cecily Begley, author of the study and Chair of Nursing and Midwifery in the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Trinity.
“However, it is important not to stigmatize women because of their weight. We need to provide pre-conceptual health education, through national subsidized programs, to support and encourage women with a high BMI to lose weight before they conceive. The benefits for them and their babies can be significant.”
For the study, the researchers produced a systematic overview of 22 systematic reviews, which looked at a total of 573 research studies comparing outcomes between pregnant women with obesity and those of healthy weight. This has resulted in an exhaustive and extensive review of the true risks associated with maternal obesity in terms of physical and mental health problems in both the mother and baby.
“The potential complications of obesity in pregnancy can lead to longer duration of hospital stay and greater costs. Given the high proportion of pregnant women with obesity, it is crucial to invest in weight loss support for these women, to reduce the risks for mothers and babies,” said Professor Michael Turner, clinical lead for the National Clinical Programme in Obstetrics and Gynaecology in Ireland.
Source: Trinity College Dublin