If you are obese and pregnant or are considering pregnancy it is important to consider the additional health complications that may hinder conception, pregnancy, and birth.

In the UK it is estimated that 19% of women are obese at one point of their pregnancy and an estimated 5% of women who give birth are classified as super obese (Class II or Class II obese).

Why Does It Matter?

Having a BMI larger than 30 during pregnancy can increase health complications for you and your unborn child. In some cases, recommendations include stricter monitoring of the fetus development and in all cases, knowledge of the increased risks is essential to a successful healthy pregnancy.


Ways In Which Obesity Can Complicate Your Pregnancy


1. Nutritional deficiencies:

If you struggle with obesity, you might also struggle to find a healthy balance in your diet. It is likely that you may be low in essential nutrients for you and your baby. Most notably, folic acid. Folic acid is related to neural tube defect and it is recommended that women who are obese and trying to conceive supplement folic acid into their diets.

It is also important that you maintain a nutritious diet during your pregnancy. Good eating behaviour will help your child develop in a healthy manner and reduce the risk of other health complications. Having a healthy diet during pregnancy will also assist in reducing the amount of excess weight gained.


2. Co-Illnesses and Health Conditions (Mother)

If you are obese, you may be at higher risk of developing health-related complications due to pregnancy. Some of these complications include Gestational Diabetes, Venous Thromboembolism, and Hypertensive Disorder.

  • Hypertensive Disorder in Pregnancy: Abnormal increase in blood pressure that in extreme cases can cause maternal and female morbidity
  • Venous Thromboembolism: The development of blood clots (usually in the leg)
  • Gestational Diabetes: A type of diabetes that develops in pregnancy because of hyperglycemia or high glucose levels. Gestational Diabetes typically arrises in the second half of pregnancy and indicates that your body can no longer produce enough insulin to control your blood sugar levels*. Pregnancy complications associated with gestational diabetes include intense fetus growth, polyhydramnios (too much amniotic fluid), premature labour, premature births, pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure), jaundice in baby and maternal risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future.

*To learn more about diabetes click here


3. Co-Illnesses and Health Conditions (Child)

Obesity during pregnancy can also cause birthing and post birth complications for newborns. Such complications include difficulties with Ultrasound Exams, Macrosomia, Preterm Birth and Stillbirth.

  • Ultrasound exams: Ultrasound exams are used as a tool to check in with the child while in utero and spot of possible health conditions. Medical practitioners use the ultrasound to make sure your baby’s heart rate during labour is normal. Patients who are obese may experience difficulty with the imaging of the ultrasound.
  • Macrosomia: A newborn that is significantly larger than average. The abnormal baby size can complicate vaginal delivery and endanger the safety of the baby. Newborns with macrosomia also are at risk of having low blood sugar, childhood obesity, and metabolic syndrome.
  • Preterm Birth: A mother’s complications may result in induced preterm birth. Babies delivered early are at risk of short term and long term health problems because they are not fully developed when born.
  • Stillbirths: The likelihood of Stillborn babies increases as BMI increases.


Additional Recommendations

Proper measurement of BMI. Although it may be uncomfortable to provide measurements, even to a health care provider, it is essential you do so with honesty. Improper measurements could result in inaccurate drug calculations and inefficient amounts of equipment provided. People who are obese must speak openly with their physicians about their measurements. Failure in doing so could mean doctors are under-equipped for delivery. Proper measurements are also important in cases where drug dosage is dependent on height.

Additionally, obese mothers must think about the type of birth that is desired. It is highly advised to have a birth in a controlled and monitored hospital setting to ensure the best chances of a healthy delivery.

Differences between non-obese and obese women carry into post-pregnancy. It is less likely for obese women to initiate or maintain breastfeeding. Breastfeeding promotes mother-child bonding and assists in building a child’s immune function and allowing the newborn to get adequate levels of nutrients, so long as the mother is eating a proper nutritious diet.

How To Help Yourself

Pregnancy and obesity are complex. The best way to help yourself and your newborn avoid these risks are to lose weight. The lower your BMI is when you become pregnant, the higher the probability of a healthy pregnancy becomes. Our team at WeightMatters can help guide you towards lifestyle changes that will help you lose weight while maintaining healthy nutrition habits that will carry into your pregnancy.

If you are already pregnant and are concerned about your weight, our team can help provide you with nutritional education to help you gain healthily habits throughout your pregnancy and learn skills that will help you and you’re newborn eat healthily.

We can also help new mothers who would like to lose weight after their pregnancy. Good nutrition counselling is especially advised if you plan on breastfeeding because the nutrients that enter your body are passed along to your newborn. We can help you pick nutrition dense food choices while helping you shed some extra pounds from your pregnancy.

Click here to learn more about our nutrition specialists.

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