Obesity During Pregnancy

The Danger Of Obesity

The medical community has long warned the Western world about the dangers of obesity. The health risks for people who are even slightly overweight include a number of severe illnesses, such as arthritis, heart disease and diabetes. Women who are overweight or obese and pregnant put themselves and their babies at risk for a dangerous pregnancy and health-related complications. Obesity has officially become a marker for high-risk pregnancies.

Understanding The Body Mass Index (BMI)

A person who is more than 30% over their ideal body weight is considered to be obese. Obesity can be the result of any number of factors, from poor diet and inactivity to complications from health issues. A scale that has been adopted by healthcare professionals, called the Body Mass Index (BMI) can calculate weight-related risks for individuals. The BMI compares information about height and body weight using a number ranging from 18 to 40. A person can determine whether they are at risk for obesity with this information.

The Body Mass Index is usually broken down as follows:

18.5 to 25: These numbers represent the ideal weight range for most normal, healthy people

25 to 29.9: A BMI in this range may mean a person is overweight for their body height

30 and Over: A measurement in this range may indicate obesity

Complications For Mother

Obesity not only affects a woman and her baby, putting them at risk for health complications, it also can have a negative effect upon fertility and reproductive health. The reason obesity affects fertility is that fat stores change the levels of sex hormones in the body and thus reduces the ability to conceive.

Being obese and pregnant puts a woman at risk for preeclampsia, a condition that occurs after 20 weeks gestation. Blood pressure escalates and protein appears in the urine. Swelling, fluid retention, headaches, nausea and other serious symptoms accompany this condition. It has the potential to restrict blood flow to the baby. Overweight and obesity during pregnancy also predispose a woman to gestational diabetes. As with preeclampsia, gestational diabetes occurs later in pregnancy and is due to the inability of the body to break down sugars. The result is dangerous for the baby in many ways, including overly large babies.

Often a woman who is obese requires delivery via caesarean section. Problems during labor arise and labor is often very slow and prolonged. Postpartum recovery can be prolonged and difficult, especially if there has been a c-section. There is increased danger for post-op infections in overweight women.

Complications For Baby

The baby is at risk for macrosoma, a condition in which the baby puts on too much weight during development. The baby may have a very difficult time entering and exiting the birth canal as a result of his/her size. Some large babies endure shoulder injuries during birth, known as shoulder dystonia. Neural tube defects are another potential danger for babies of obese women. Spina bifida and anencephaly are two common neural tube defects that occur as a result of low folic acid intake during the first trimester. These defects can be found via ultrasound. However, women who are obese produce poor ultrasounds. Blurry images are caused by the layers of fat.

A woman who is overweight or obese and desires to have children can help reduce the risks associated with obesity during pregnancy by losing weight before conception and monitoring weight gain during their pregnancy. Exercise is important throughout the pregnancy since it helps to reduce the risk of potential problems.

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