The prevalence of obesity has been on the rise for some time now. We are well aware of how obesity can lead to conditions like diabetes and high cholesterol. Then begins the cycle of taking pills and drinking only sugar-free beverages.
Planning to start a family during such times can be daunting. Carrying a child already causes a million changes in a woman’s body, and if you have been diagnosed with diabetes or high cholesterol, then it’s a Catch-22 situation. Obesity might just add to these problems. Time and again, maternal obesity has been associated with adverse effects on the mother as well as the baby.1
A recent study performed by the Singapore General Hospital proves this point further. They surveyed about 9,000 women around the age of 30 years in Singapore and found that approximately 22% of them met the obesity criteria according to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Asian standards. The study comprised women of Malay, Chinese, and Indian ethnicities. The prevalence of obesity was up to 17% in women of Indian origin. The researchers observed that women who met the obesity criteria had a higher risk of caesarean section and complications with the development of the baby.1
Let’s take a look at some of the risks for women with higher-than-average weight gain during pregnancy:
- Caesarean delivery: The Singaporean study found that mothers-to-be who were overweight were more likely to have an emergency caesarean section. Caesarean delivery may seem like a pain-free option, but it has a higher risk of blood loss, infection, and possible damage to the nearby organs. Sometimes, the baby may have trouble breathing.2
- Preeclampsia and sleep apnea: Preeclampsia is a condition where a pregnant woman experiences high blood pressure, so much so, that it could cause damage to the liver or kidneys. Expectant women may also be at risk of sleep apnea, a condition in which you stop breathing for a short duration while you are asleep. This could lead to them feeling extremely tired and, in turn, increase the blood pressure.3
- Gestational diabetes: This type of diabetes begins during pregnancy. It increases the chances of caesarean delivery, and also puts both the mother and the baby at risk of developing diabetes later in life.3
- Preterm birth: Women who put on excess weight during pregnancy tend to deliver their baby before the expected date. This puts the baby at risk, both in the short term as well as in the long term. Also, the baby may not be fully developed at the time of birth, which adds to the complications.3
- Macrosomia: In this condition, the baby is heavier than the recommended healthy weight of a newborn. his poses a problem because it puts the baby at risk of getting hurt during delivery.3
- Neural tube defects: Mothers-to-be who are overweight are known to have babies with defects in the development of their spinal cord and brain. This could lead to paralysis in some part of the baby’s body.3
- Stillbirths and loss of pregnancy: It has also been observed that expecting mothers who are overweight or put on excessive weight during pregnancy may be at a higher risk for miscarriage or stillbirth.3
Prevention is better than cure
So, how do you reduce these risks? The simplest solution is to shed the extra kilos if you plan on having a baby soon. A weight loss of even 5-7% of your excess weight could mean a healthier pregnancy.3 Including vitamin D in your diet keeps you healthy and goes a long way towards ensuring the health of the baby as well. Also, if you are pregnant, it’s best to get regular check-ups with your healthcare provider and discuss with them about labour planning, your expected date of delivery, and if you will require inducing of labour or a caesarean section. These will give you a heads up on how to change your diet or lifestyle to increase and ensure your chances of a safe and healthy pregnancy.4
In conclusion, obesity need not necessarily mean you will have a complicated pregnancy. But it’s always better to avert the risks so that you have worry-free motherhood.
- Pang SY, Tan EL, Tan LK. Maternal obesity: prevalence, outcomes and evaluation of body mass index cut-off values in a multi-ethnic Asian obstetric population. Journal of Obesity and Diabetics. 2016 July;1(1):4-12. doi:10.33805/2638-812X.102.
- Caesarean [Internet]. 2017. [Cited 2019 Jul 11] Available from: https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/caesarean.
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Obesity and pregnancy [Internet]. 2016 [Cited 2019 Jul 11]. Available from: https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Obesity-and-Pregnancy?IsMobileSet=false.
Difinubun SZU. Obesity during the pregnancy. Journal of Ultimate Public Health. 2018;2(2):112-118. doi: https://doi.org/10.22236/jump-health.v2i2.p112-118.