Obesity Increases Risk for Pregnancy Abnormalities

by Mona Saint MD

A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that women who start out their pregnancy obese have a significantly higher risk of having babies with birth defects. Some of these abnormalities include neural tube defects, spina bifida, heart abnormalities, cleft lip and palate, and brain abnormalities. Fortunately, the overall risk of any of these abnormalities even in obese women is pretty low, often about 1/1000.  These risks were not increased for women who were overweight, only for those defined as obese. Obesity is usually defined using a body mass index (BMI). This takes into account both height and weight. A BMI of 25-29 kg/m2 is considered overweight and a BMI of 30 kg /m2 or greater defines the obese range. You can calculate your BMI at the CDC Website.

One in four Americans develops obesity in their lifetime and 50% of Americans are overweight. Obesity is associated with many health problems including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer, to name a few. Pregnancy related obesity is known to increase the chances of gestational diabetes, still-births, high blood pressure, cesarean sections, wound infections and delivery complications. Ways to easily cut back on obesity include daily exercise, even 15-20 minutes of walking a day, low carbohydrate and Mediterranean diets high in vegetables and whole grains, avoiding the more processed foods, fast foods, and refined carbohydrates, and switching from drinking soda and energy drinks to more water and herbal teas without any calories. And finally, reducing snacking when we are not hungry can be another easy way to shed the pounds. If you are struggling with weight and planning to conceive, consult with your physician about diet plans and preconception goals for a healthy pregnancy.

Stothard K, et al “Maternal overweight and obesity and the risk of congenital anomalies: a systematic review and meta-analysis”. Journal of the American Medical Association 2009.

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02.14.09 at 6:50 pm

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