Big Mama, Big Babies, More Complications

Overweight or obese pregnant women have larger babies and risk more complications

(RxWiki News) Being overweight or obese during pregnancy can put women at a higher risk for gestational diabetes, which increases the risk of birth complications.

But even an overweight or obese woman who avoids gestational diabetes has a higher risk of complications because she has a higher risk of delivering a larger-than-average baby.

A recent study confirmed what several other studies have found in the past several years: having a baby while overweight or obese raises the risk of giving birth to heavier baby.

"Talk to your OB/GYN about a healthy weight plan."

The study, led by Mary Helen Black, PhD, of Kaiser Permanente Southern California's Department of Research and Evaluation, involved analyzing the health records of 9,835 women who gave birth at Kaiser Permanente Southern California Downey Medical Center.

The babies were all born between October 30, 2005 and December 31, 2010. Among these women, 65 percent were overweight or obese, and 19 percent developed gestational diabetes.

Among the women who did not have gestational diabetes, those who were overweight were 65 percent more likely to have an "overly large" baby. Obese women were 163 percent more likely to have an overly large baby.

An "overly large" infant was defined for this study as a child who ranked over the 90th percentile compared to other babies born at the same week of pregnancy as them.

A baby in the highest percentiles for weight means a higher risk of complications for the birth and a higher risk that the baby will become overweight or obese later in life.

"Unhealthy pre-pregnancy body weight, gestational diabetes and excess weight gain during pregnancy are all contributors to problems during pregnancy and at delivery," said Dr. Black. "It's possible that a large percentage of these problems may be prevented by helping overweight or obese women lose weight before they become pregnant or control their weight gain during pregnancy."

Dr. Black added that additional studies are necessary to confirm whether losing weight before pregnancy can reduce overweight or obese women's risks of delivering larger babies.

"By losing weight to achieve a healthy weight before pregnancy and by keeping their weight gain during pregnancy within guidelines established by the Institute of Medicine, women may decrease the health risks to their unborn babies and themselves," said David A. Sacks, MD, a co-author and adjunct investigator at the Department of Research & Evaluation.

"For children of overweight and obese women, the risks include an increased likelihood of having an excessive amount of body fat and being overweight or obese themselves, which can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease and type 2 diabetes later in life," said Dr. Sacks, also a retired obstetrician-gynecologist from the Kaiser Permanente Downey Medical Center.

The study was published August 14 in the journal Diabetes Care. The study was funded by Kaiser Permanente. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

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Review Date: 
August 12, 2012