Obesity During Pregnancy Inflames Risks

Obesity and inflammation linked to pregnancy problems

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) If you’re obese and pregnant, a nutritious diet may not ensure you have an easy pregnancy and a healthy baby. A new study shows that inflammation in your body, caused by obesity, can have harmful health effects for both the mother and child.

Researchers from the Institute of Life Science, College of Medicine at Swansea University in England looked at a number of studies to examine how obesity in pregnant women affects the inflammatory response (the body's immune response) of a mother and child.

The team found that that tissue in the mother and baby's bodies are more likely to be inflamed.

They believe that pregnant women also have greater amount of inflammation in the body, which will lead to problems for the women and their babies.

More specifically, obese pregnant women have higher levels of a protein (called IL-6) that triggers an immune response in people. 

"Obese pregnant women should work with their doctor to reduce inflammation."

Inflammation is a way the body reacts to infection in the body, known as an immune response, and is characterized by redness, warmth, swelling and pain.

Inflammation is the culprit behind many health problems in obese women, whether they’re pregnant or not, says lead study researcher Dr. Catherine A. Thornton in a statement. New research also shows that inflammation may lead to problems in pregnancy too.

Higher levels of the IL-6 protein were also found in the umbilical cord plasma, which may cause abnormal fetal development, high blood pressure for the child and later problems in the digestive, immune and neurological systems as an adult.

The researchers say obesity in pregnant women puts the mother and baby at risk of a number of conditions, including a greater chance of the mother developing high blood pressure (preeclampsia). It also increases the baby’s risk for respiratory tract infections and streptococcal disease (such as strep throat).

Plus, if the baby has an overactive immune response like the mother’s, he or she is at increased risk of developing allergies in infancy.

Thornton says that diseases – including inflammatory diseases – are becoming more common in babies. It is still unknown whether the babies of obese pregnant women are at a significantly greater risk of developing autoimmune diseases, allergy and asthma, and neurological problems.

The researchers’ review of studies suggest that a healthy diet is not enough to prevent health problems in obese women and their babies. To prevent problems, treatment will have to target these women's immune responses, Thornton says.

This observational study was published in the journal Advances in Neuroimmune Biology.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 12, 2012
Last Updated:
January 27, 2012