The Risks of Being Overweight During Pregnancy

Many pregnant women are unaware of being overweight or obese, and lack knowledge of the risks it poses to their possible pregnancy, according to findings published in the Medical Journal of Australia. Associate Professor Leonie Callaway and her colleagues surveyed 412 women in early pregnancy that attended a public antenatal clinic or were patients of a private obstetrician.

The results of the survey found 30 percent of the women had been overweight or obese before beginning their pregnancy. However, 36 percent of the women who were overweight believed themselves to be of normal weight. Only 16 percent of women with a BMI in the obese range classified themselves as obese. Callaway speculates that, “This may result in women having an inaccurate picture of the potential risk that their weight adds to a future pregnancy. It is also possible that obesity is now so common it is perceived normal.”

Though 57 percent of overweight and obese women having a preconception health check with a doctor, only 17 percent of the overweight and obese women recalled having a doctor advise them to lose weight. Callaway adds, “Our findings highlight the importance of calculating BMI and advising women about the increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes associated with overweight and obesity when they present for preconception care.”

In an accompanying editorial in the Medical Journal of Australia, Professor Marc Keirse said being overweight could make conception difficult and was linked to pregnancy complications, including gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia and operative delivery, It was also linked to increased risk of miscarriage congenital malformations, stillbirth and perinatal death.


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