Obesity

Obese Pregnant Women and the Risk Factors

Obesity is a continuing problem among all age groups and both genders. Today, around 34 percent of adult Americans are obese and around 34 percent are considered overweight.  Because these numbers are so high it is not a surprise that there are plenty of obese pregnant women.  These women are at a higher risk for several health complications both for themselves and their unborn baby.   All pregnant women can be at risk for these complications but being obese will put you at even higher risk. Not only can obesity put a women and her baby at risk it can also affect fertility for those trying to become pregnant.  In addition obese women have a greater chance for early miscarriage and recurrent miscarriage.

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Possible Complications For the Mother

·         Preeclampsia:

Preeclampsia is a condition that can cause increased blood pressure, swelling and fluid retention during pregnancy. This is a serious condition and if it becomes bad enough it can restrict the placental blood flow to the baby, which in turn can endanger the baby.

·         Gestational Diabetes:

Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that can develop during pregnancy.   This type of diabetes prevents the body from breaking down sugars and can put the baby at risk for excessive weight gain in utero.

·         Cesarean Section:

Obese women have a greater chance of problems during delivery and therefore increase the probability of having a cesarean section.

·         Postpartum Infection:

Obesity makes you more vulnerable for a difficult postpartum recovery period putting you at a higher risk for developing serious and dangerous postpartum infections.

Possible Complications for the Baby

·         Macrosoma:

Macrosoma is a disorder in which the baby gains too much weight in utero, which can result in complicated labor and delivery making it difficult for the baby to exit out of the birth canal. This can cause birth trauma for the baby.

·         Neural Tube Defects:

Babies born to obese mothers are at a higher risk of developing birth defects such as neural tube defects.  Neural tube defects include anencephaly and spina bifida, which are mostly associated with low levels of folic acid in the first trimester.  Most of these types of birth defects are found through ultrasound early in the pregnancy but with women who are obese often the ultrasounds are of poor quality because the waves of the ultrasound do not penetrate under the extra layers of abdominal fat.   Therefore birth defects such as neural tube defects are not always detected until the baby is born.

·         Childhood Obesity:

Studies have found that children born to obese mothers are more likely to suffer from obesity by the time they reach the age of four.  Their risk also increases for adolescent and adult obesity as well as type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome in adulthood.

If you are planning to become pregnant you should see your doctor for a complete physical before doing so.  Try to get a handle on your weight.  Just a small percentage of weight loss will begin to bring down some of the risks of complications.  It is essential to undergo preconception counseling to minimize the risk to both mother and baby.

References

Pregnancy Complications

Obesity Carries Pregnancy Risks

Overweight and Obesity

March of Dimes

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