What are the Risks of Obesity during Pregnancy? - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on April 08, 2015

What are the Risks of Obesity during Pregnancy?

What are the Risks of Obesity during Pregnancy?

Infant mortality isn’t the only risk of of obesity during
pregnancy. During pregnancy, obese women are at
an increased risk for several conditions. 

Pregnancy, while it’s a joyous and exciting time, comes with certain health risks. And obesity triggers a whole host of health risks. When you combine the two – pregnancy and obesity – those health risks increase exponentially.

A recent study found even more evidence that obese women take on a huge medical challenge when they become pregnant –they’re more likely to have complications and their newborns are more likely to die.

Researchers discovered that the risk of infant mortality rose in direct proportion to the mother’s weight and that severely obese women were two and a half times more likely to lose their babies than women of a normal weight.

Although this study only established an association between obesity and infant mortality, rather than reporting why babies born to obese mothers are at a greater risk, it is more evidence that obesity is a major health issue.

Infant mortality isn’t the only risk, though.

Women who are obese are more likely to develop gestational diabetes as well as high blood pressure and protein in urine (preeclampsia) than women who have a normal weight. They are also at an increased risk of urinary tract infections during pregnancy and postpartum infection after the birth.

During pregnancy, obese women are at an increased risk of thrombosis, a serious condition in which a blood clot forms inside a blood vessel. They might also have an increased risk of obstructive sleep apnea – a sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. If a woman already has obstructive sleep apnea, pregnancy may worsen it.

Obesity increases the risk that the pregnancy will continue beyond the expected due date, which may explain why labor induction is more common in women who are obese. Being obese can also interfere with certain types of pain medication, such as an epidural.

In addition, obesity during pregnancy increases the chances of both elective and emergency C-sections. To further complicate things, obesity increases the risk of C-section issues, like delayed healing and wound infections.

Health issues don’t just stop with the mother – it can also affect the baby’s health. Women who are obese are more likely to deliver an infant who is significantly larger than average and has more body fat than normal. Research has suggested that as an infant’s birth weight increases, so does the risk of childhood obesity. In addition, being obese might increase the baby’s risk of developing heart disease or diabetes as an adult. Research has also reported that obesity during pregnancy may slightly increase the risk of the baby being born with a birth defect, such as heart issues or conditions affecting the brain or spinal cord.

However, you can limit the impact obesity has on your pregnancy and ensure the health of you and your baby. This can be done by:

  • Scheduling a pre-conception appointment with your healthcare provider
  • Seeking regular prenatal care
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Being physically active
  • Avoiding risky or dangerous substances

The bottom line is that healthy women are more likely to have healthy babies. Although obesity during pregnancy can increase the risk of complications to you and your baby, you can work closely with your doctors to avoid excessive weight gain, manage medical conditions, and monitor your baby’s growth and development.

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