What are the Risks of Preterm Births in Overweight or Obese Mothers?

The number of overweight and obese pregnant women in the United States and other countries is at an all time high.  In the Untied Kingdom, 33 percent of pregnant women are either overweight or obese. In India, the statistic stands at 8 percent of pregnant women being obese and 26 percent being overweight. In the United States more then half of all women are obese or overweight when they become pregnant.  That calculates to 12 to 38 percent of pregnant women who are overweight and 11 to 40 percent who are obese in the US.  Even China comes in at 16 percent of pregnant women being overweight or obese.  It most definitely is a worldwide problem.

Experts agree that the number one health issue that affects pregnancy is obesity.  According to the National Institutes of Health, adults with a body mass index (BMI) between 25 and 30 are considered overweight.  A BMI of greater then 30 would classify an adult as obese and more than 100 pounds overweight and a BMI of greater then 40 is considered morbidly obese.

Canadian researchers have found that the chances of an overweight/obese women experiencing preterm birth is higher then that of a normal weight women or a women with a healthy BMI. The results of their study were published in the online edition of the British Medical Journal in July 2010.

Facts from the research on preterm births (PB):

  • PB as well as low birth weight remains two of the foremost reasons for infant death and illnesses throughout childhood, though they go hand-in-hand majority of the time.
  • PB is a condition where the birth of the baby takes place before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
  • It was discovered that there is a significant difference in the risk of induced PB (30 percent) among overweight and obese women when compared to women of healthy weight.
  • The higher the body weight, the higher the risk of induced preterm birth between overweight, obese and morbidly obese women.
  • The risk of early PB (birth prior to 32 weeks) in overweight and obese women is also high, with 82 percent of obese women developing this condition in comparison to women of healthy weight.
  • The risk of giving birth to low birth weight babies is lower in overweight and obese women however the risk of a very low birth weight baby is higher.

Experts advise that obese and overweight women seek counseling on the risks of preterm birth prior to pregnancy.  Efforts to lose weight prior to conceiving can have beneficial effects both for the baby and the mother.


Calculate Your Body Mass Index: http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/

Overweight and obesity in mothers and risk of preterm birth and low birth weight infants: systematic review and meta-analyses: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2907482/

Risks for Preterm Births May Be Higher Among Overweight and Obese Mothers: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/725893

Maternal Obesity in Early Pregnancy and Risk of Spontaneous and Elective Preterm Delivery: A Retrospective Cohort Study: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/550451

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