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Overweight – a risk during pregnancy

In many regions of the world, the number of overweight people in relation to the total population keeps steadily increasing. This is a development which also affects women of childbearing age, as excessive weight is associated with a variety of health risks for both mothers and their unborn children. Already, a body mass index (BMI) of 26 kg/m2 can delay the onset of pregnancy. This is due to hormonal changes that affect the cycle and other body functions.

Furthermore, the complication risk during pregnancy is higher for overweight women than for women of normal weight. The most common complications include gestational diabetes and hypertensive pregnancy. The probability of developing gestational diabetes is 3- to 11-fold higher for overweight women, depending on how severe their excess weight is.

Considering the occurrence of hypertensive pregnancy disorders, obese women are affected up to four times more often than those of a normal weight. Together with the BMI, the possibility of suffering an abortion, intrauterine fetal death, fetal malformations, and premature birth also increases. Another weight- and diabetes-associated occurrence is fetal macrosomia, where the unborn child is above average weight for its age and exceeds the 95th percentile.

Overall, with increasing maternal weight the chance of a spontaneous and on-time birth inversely decreases. The most common causes that necessitate induced labor or birth by C-section, as well as causes of increased perinatal morbidity and mortality, are hard to control blood sugar, an aggravation of already existing hypertensive pregnancy complications, fetal macrosomia and birth complications.

Image 1  © “dmitriisimakov” / Fotolia.com

Moreover, there may be long term consequences. Studies suggest that maternal obesity before and during pregnancy, as well as childhood macrosomia, increase the risk of weight problems for the child during their childhood and adolescence. Obesity is now among the most important risk factors in pregnancy. Therefore, it is essential to closely control the nutritional status of expecting mothers. If you wish to have a baby, it is recommended to normalize your weight before becoming pregnant.

During pregnancy, women gain about 12 to 15 kg on average. Should the weight gain be significantly higher, an early assessment is recommended. Losing weight during a pregnancy, however, is generally discouraged, as it might cause growth disorders and neonatal hypotrophy if the birth weight falls below the 10th percentile.

Although part of every pregnancy check-up includes measuring the body weight during each doctor’s visit, regular weighing at home can help detect excessive weight gain at an early stage and give expecting mothers enough time to take appropriate measures. It is also generally recommended for overweight women to bring their weight down to a normal level before trying for another child.

Ultimately, excessive weight before and during pregnancy requires regular controls and should not be trivialized. If you are overweight and want to have children, any weight loss is a good way to reduce pregnancy risks and contribute to the good health of both mother and child.