Risks of Obesity to Pregnancy and Childbirth

10 August 2018
A pregnant woman in a pink polka dot dress, showcasing the journey of weight loss surgery.

Using a sample analysis of just over 19 million people in 200 countries globally, a study found that more of that population sample is considered to be overweight than underweight.

Western, developed countries, such as the UK, United States of America and Australia have an obesity rate greater than 50% for women who have yet to undergo menopause.

The risks that come with this kind of obesity are considerable if a woman should fall pregnant whilst being considered “obese”. Aside from the health risks to both the mother’s and child’s health during the pregnancy, complications can arise for a natural childbirth occurring.

Women who are obese when carrying a child are more likely to suffer from gestational diabetes, require a caesarian to deliver the baby, or in some cases, both.

The child becomes inherently likely to develop childhood obesity traits, neonatal complications and potential metabolic problems as they grow older.

This can often lead to an ongoing cycle of obesity from parent to child that could last for more than one generation. In the case of obesity today, this is becoming more and more likely since the population as a whole is increasing in their obesity levels, rather than actually losing weight.

Whilst diet and lifestyle are always a factor, they are not the only way to manage one’s obesity effectively. In many cases, altering one’s diet and lifestyle may not have the desired weight-loss effect. Weight loss surgery is an alternative to help lose the initial weight, returning an obese individual back to a healthy BMI for their height, weight and gender. Once this is achieved, managing that weight with good dietary / lifestyle practices is vital to maintaining a healthy weight.

The study, conducted over a 25 year trend-period, examined the somatotypes of women experiencing their first pregnancy who would be considered overweight according to their Body Mass Index value. The study then took into consideration the possible outcomes of the stages of the pregnancy, the potential birth complications, and the impact obesity in the mother may have on her unborn, and eventual child.

It was concluded that tackling these obesity issues prior to this first pregnancy would decrease the risks to both mother and child during the gestation period, childbirth and early life of the child.

This sample was collected from data of all births that occurred at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, located in Sydney, for the 25-year period ending in 2014.

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