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Obesity Boosts Use of Health Care Services in Pregnancy

Longer hospital stays for delivery among those with a higher-than-normal body mass index

WEDNESDAY, April 2 (HealthDay News) -- Women who are overweight or obese before pregnancy or early in pregnancy use more health care services and have longer hospital stays for delivery, researchers report in the April 3 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Susan Y. Chu, Ph.D., from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues examined the association between body mass index (BMI) before pregnancy or early in pregnancy and use of health care services among 13,442 women whose pregnancies resulted in live births or stillbirths.

The researchers found that after adjusting for a number of factors, the mean length of hospital stay for delivery increased from 3.6 days in women with a normal BMI to 4.4 days for extremely obese women. Much of the increase was due to higher rates of Caesarean delivery and obesity-related high-risk conditions. Women with BMIs above normal received more prenatal fetal tests, ultrasounds and medications; phoned the obstetrics and gynecology department more often; and had more prenatal visits with physicians but fewer visits with nurse practitioners and physicians assistants.

"Obesity during pregnancy is associated with increased use of health care services," Chu and colleagues conclude.

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