Obesity-PregnancyRisk for health

Obesity and Pregnancy – Risk for health

Having excess overweight or obesity is a known unhealthy condition around the world. Unfortunately every year this condition increases among adults and children. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists being overweight means that a person has a body mass index (BMI) of 25-29.9. Obesity is defined as having a BMI of 30 or greater. Within the general category of obesity, there are three levels that reflect the increasing health risks that go along with increasing BMI:

  • Lowest risk is a BMI of 30–34.9.

  • Medium risk is a BMI of 35.0–39.9.

  • Highest risk is a BMI of 40 or greater.

Obesity during pregnancy– Risk for mother

Specially during pregnancy, obesity represents a serious risk for the health of mother and child. One of the risks for the mother caused by obesity is gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes is first diagnosed during pregnancy and can increase the risk of having a cesarean delivery. Further, if a woman had gestational diabetes, the risk of developing diabetes in the future increases for mother and child. For this reason obese women must make at least two tests during pregnancy (one at the beginning of the pregnancy, and the other one later in pregnancy) to find out if they have gestational diabetes. A second risk caused by obesity implies the development of a high blood pressure disorder also known as preeclampsia. Preeclampsia can occur during or after pregnancy. This illness is serious and affects the whole women's body. For example kidneys and liver are damaged and may colapse too. Preeclampsia can lead to seizures (this is a condition called eclampsia). In rare cases even strokes can happen. In order to avoid these risks, an emergency tratment is needed and the baby may need to be delivered earlier. A third risk caused by obesity is a condition in which a person stops breathing for short periods during sleep. This condition is called sleep apnea and it is very dangerous for obese persons during pregnancy because besides causing fatigue, it increases the risk of high blood pressure, preeclampsia, eclampsia and heart and lung disorders.

Obesity during pregnancy– Risk for baby

Obesity also presents several increased risks for the baby compared with women of standard weight. Obesity can lead to miscarriage (pregnancy loss), birth defects such as heart defects and neural tube defects. Besides, having too much body fat does not easily allow to look for certain problems related to the baby's anatomy while performing an ultrasound test. In the same way it becomes more difficult to check the baby's heart rate during labor if the woman is obese. Another risk for the baby caused by obesity is macrosomia. This condition also means that the baby is larger than normal and it can increase the risk of the baby being injured during birth. For example, the baby's shoulder can become stuck during delivery. Macrosomia also increases the possibility that the baby will be delivered by cesarean. Besides, if a baby is born with too much body fat, he or she has more probability of becoming obese later in life. Another risk associated with obesity is the preterm birth. If the pregnant woman has developed preeclampsia the doctor may advise to perform a cesarean to deliver the baby earlier. Preterm babies are not as fully developed as babies, who are born after the 39. week of pregnancy, consequently, babies have an increased risk of short-term and long-term health problems. Last, the most serious risk of obesity during pregnancy is the risk of stillbirth. This risk increases with the woman's BMI. The higher the woman's BMI, the higher the risk of delivering a dead baby.