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Obesity and pregnancy

Being obese while you are pregnant can be bad for you and your baby's health.

Obesity - with a body mass index or BMI of over 30 - can also make it harder to become pregnant in the first place.

The Royal College of Midwives says women should try to be an ideal weight before they become pregnant and, if not, should follow their midwife's advice to manage their weight.


Pregnancy complications if the mum-to-be is obese include:

Birth defects: The risk of a foetal abnormality, including spina bifida, increase with obesity in pregnancy.

Bleeding: With obesity, bleeding after giving birth is likely to be heavier.

Blood clots: Being pregnant increases the risk of a woman having a blood clot, but obesity makes this risk higher.

C-section delivery: Obesity increases a woman's chances of needing an elective or an emergency C-section ( caesarean) delivery.

Child health issues: A child whose mum was obese during pregnancy is also more likely to develop type 1 diabetes, or have type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and mood disorders later in life.

Gestational diabetes: Being overweight or obese makes diabetes in pregnancy more likely.

Infections: Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are more likely with obesity during pregnancy. Infections are also more likely after giving birth, either by C-section or a vaginal birth.

Labour and delivery problems: Having labour induced is more likely because of obesity and it can also affect pregnancy pain relief, including epidurals. There is also a greater chance of the baby getting its shoulders stuck during vaginal delivery.

Miscarriage, pregnancy loss and stillbirth: These risks increase with obesity. The risk of stillbirth doubles from around 1 in 200 to 1 in 100 with obesity.

Overdue pregnancy and premature birth: Women who are obese are more likely to have babies past their due date or premature, before 37 weeks.

Pre- eclampsia: Obesity increases the risk of this condition causing high blood pressure and possible kidney damage during pregnancy.

Baby's birth weight: Women who are obese in pregnancy tend to eat more saturated fats and fewer vitamins and minerals during pregnancy compared with leaner women. Eating a high fat diet affects the placenta feeding the growing baby. This can weaken protection to the foetus against the circulating stress hormone cortisol. This can reduce foetal growth. On the other hand, women who are obese are also more likely to have babies who weigh more than 4kg (just under 9 pounds).

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on May 03, 2017

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