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Obesity Raises Pregnancy Risks

Weight-related dangers threaten both mother and newborn, panelists conclude

FRIDAY, Feb. 3, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Compared with normal weight women, overweight and obese women suffer more pregnancy complications and their babies are more likely to have medical problems at birth, a panel of experts concludes.

The position paper of the Public Affairs Committee of the Teratology Society noted that obese women have increased risk of infertility and problems during pregnancy, including hypertension, gestational diabetes and thromboembolic (clot-related) events. They're also more likely to require a Caesarean section, require more time in hospital recovering from childbirth, and have higher prenatal medical costs.

Babies of obese mothers are more likely to be admitted to neonatal intensive care units and have a higher incidence of neural tube defects, the panelists found.

"The literature suggests that compared to normal weight women, women whose body mass index (BMI) is greater than or equal to 30 have approximately double the risk of having an affected child," the paper said. A BMI of 30 is the statistical threshold for obesity.

The researchers noted that neither levels of folic acid intake nor the presence of maternal diabetes explained the increased risks associated with overweight.

Their advice? Weight-reduction efforts should be made well before a woman attempts to conceive. Pregnant women should not diet, however.

"Adequate nutrition is important for pregnant women and women planning pregnancy," the paper's authors wrote. They add that doctors should counsel pregnant women about adequate caloric intake and exercise.

The committee did not make a recommendation regarding weight-loss surgery. However, they cautioned that, "because some weight loss procedures can result in nutritional deficiencies, it appears reasonable to recommend that pregnancy be delayed until surgery-related weight loss has stabilized."

The report was published online Friday in Birth Defects Research Part A: Clinical and Molecular Teratology.

More information

The U.S. National Women's Health Information Center has more about obesity.

SOURCE: John Wiley & Sons Inc., news release, Feb. 3, 2006
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