Obesity Linked to More Complications in Pregnancy and Newborns with More Medical Problems

Obesity has become an epidemic in the U.S. as well as in several affluent nations around the world. Each year, the growing number of men, women, and children that are overweight or obese face a wide range of medical problems that include:

·        increased risk of developing serious diseases of the cardiovascular, respiratory, circulatory, and nervous systems including diabetes, hypertension, certain types of cancer, heart disease, and high cholesterol;

·        long-term damage to the eyes (including blindness), kidneys (including the need for dialysis) , heart, and weight-bearing joints as well as the possibility of limb amputations;

·        development of severe eating disorders; and

·        psychological problems including depression, lack of confidence, and low self-esteem.

A person’s age, gender, and ethnicity also play a role in determining the type and severity of the risks that obesity may  pose. Hardly a week goes by without a new study or other medical data identifyng or re-confirming a risk associated with obesity. In 2005, one study even showed that obese women being treated for breast cancer were likely to be under-dosed when receiving chemotherapy.

Thus, it is not surprising that a position paper by the Public Affairs Committee of the Teratology Society titled “Maternal Obesity and Pregnancy,” sets forth a number of obesity-related health problems associated with pregnant women who are obese and their newborn babies.

The paper, published in Birth Defects Research Part A: Clinical and Molecular Teratology, notes that a recent survey found 54.5% of U.S. women between 20 and 39 years of age are now overweight, and 29.1% are obese.

In discussing various studies and medical data, the paper lists the following as female/pregnancy-related problems associated with obesity:

·        increased risk of infertility;

·        increased risk of hypertension, gestational diabetes, and thromboembolic events;

·        more likely to undergo a cesarian section;

·        higher pre-natal medical costs;

·        longer hospital stays after giiving birth.

In addition, the paper discusses problems that babies of obese mothers are more likely to encounter than do babies of normal-weighted women. These include:

·        more likely to be admitted to a neo-natal intensive care unit;

·        higher incidence of neural tube defects;

·        more than 200% more likely to have some medical problem when the mother’s BMI (body mass index) is 30 or more;

·        increased risk of birth defects such as macrosomia and shoulder dystocia and others that are suggested by studies but not yet conclusive because of limited data.

According to the Committee, obesity should be regarded “as a pregnancy risk factor and supports the public health initiatives identified by the FDA and the research initiatives identified by the NIH.”

Some of the recommendations the papers authors suggest include:

·        pre-conception efforts at weight reduction;

·        avoid dieting during pregnancy;

·        proper and adequate nutrition during pregnancy;

·        appropriate guidance by medical professionals as to diet and exercise during prgnancy;

·        the possible (although not formally recommended) use of surgical intervention (gastric banding for example) during pregnancy – citing some recent data that found woman who have bariatric surgery can have normal pregnancies and better outcomes – although the Committee points out that since these procedures may result in  nutritional deficiencies, conception should be “delayed until surgery-related weight loss has stabilized.”

·        educational programs that emphasize childhood nutrition and the value of breastfeeding (a factor in preventing childhood obesity).    

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