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Obese women should lose weight before pregnancy, TCD researchers say

A new academic review warns that babies born to obese mothers face bigger risks during pregnancy.

Image: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire/Press Association Images

BABIES BORN TO obese mothers face bigger risks during pregnancy, according to a new review of research by academics at Trinity College Dublin, the University of Gothenberg and City University London.

The researchers have warned that obese women should lose weight before they become pregnant.

The review lists gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, and higher levels of caesarean birth and surgical site infection among the problems more likely to be experienced by pregnant women with obesity compared to women of healthy weight.

Maternal obesity, defined as having a BMI of 30 or above when starting pregnancy, is also linked to greater risk of pre-term birth, fetal defects and stillbirth.

The study, which was published today in international peer-reviewed journal Obesity Reviews,  comprises an overview of 22 systematic reviews, which analysed a total of 573 research studies.

The researchers say global rates of maternal obesity have reached epidemic proportions, with around one third of women in western countries affected. The prevalence of maternal obesity in women aged 20-39 years in European countries at 30-37% and at 31.9% in the US.

They estimate that some 20-25% of pregnant women in Ireland are obese at present.

The study’s author, Professor Cecily Begley, who is Chair of Nursing and Midwifery in the TCD School of Nursing and Midwifery, said in a statement that the research should not be used to blame 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.However, it is important not to stigmatise women because of their weight. We need to provide pre-conceptual health education, through national subsidised programmes, to support and encourage women with a high BMI to lose weight before they conceive.

Commenting on the study, Professor Michael Turner, Clinical Lead for the National Clinical Programme in Obstetrics and Gynaecology in Ireland, said that Irish research has shown similar results.

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.

READ: Most of us don’t realise severe obesity is as dangerous as smoking >

READ: ‘Ireland’s maternity units are facing chronic and dangerous understaffing’ >

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About the author:

Catherine Healy

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