Obesity is defined as having a BMI of 30 or higher. The number of obese women in the United States has increased greatly during the past 25 years. Obesity has also become a major health concern for pregnant women. More than one half of pregnant women are overweight or obese.
Risks of Obesity Include:
• Birth defects – Babies born to obese mothers have an increased risk of having birth defects, such as heart defects and neural tube defects.
• Macrosomia – In this condition, the baby is larger than normal. This can increase the risk of the baby being injured during birth. For example, the baby’s shoulder can become entrapped after the head is delivered. Macrosomia also increases the risk of cesarean birth.
• Preterm Birth – Problems associated with a mother’s obesity may mean that the baby will need to be delivered early. Preterm infants have an increased risk of health problems, including breathing problems, eating problems, and developmental and learning difficulties later in life.
• Stillbirth – The risk of stillbirth increases the higher the mother’s BMI.
• High Blood Pressure
• Preeclampsia – Preeclampsia is a serious illness for both the woman and her baby. Although gestational hypertension is the most common sign of preeclampsia, this condition affects all organs of the body. The kidneys and liver may fail. In rare cases, stroke can occur. The fetus is at risk of growth problems and problems with the placenta. It may require early delivery, even if the baby is not fully grown. In severe cases, the woman, baby, or both may die.
• Gestational Diabetes – High blood glucose (sugar) levels during pregnancy increase the risk of having a very large baby and a cesarean delivery. Women who have had gestational diabetes have a higher risk of having diabetes in the future, as do their children.
• Challenges in Prenatal Care – Obesity can make it more difficult for the midwife to assess fetal position and fetal growth.
• Challenges in Labor Management – Obesity can create challenges in moving the woman quickly in the event of an emergency during the birth, and can make auscultation of fetal heart tones more difficult.