Obesity In Pregnancy: What Are The Risks?

Obesity in pregnancy can cause later health problems in the baby, as well as increasing the risk of complications during gestation. Find out about its harmful effects and how to avoid them.
Obesity in pregnancy: what are the risks?

Obesity is unfortunately a very widespread problem in the general population. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is a problem that affects over 650 million adults worldwide. Similarly, obesity in pregnancy is also a rather frequent condition that presents different risks for the unborn child and the mother.

Many women start gestation heavier than they should. Obesity in pregnancy impairs the health of the mother and can hinder the development of the fetus. That’s why we explain everything you need to know on the subject below.

What is meant by obesity in pregnancy?

Obesity in pregnancy, as in any moment of a woman’s life, is defined as excess body fat. To classify the problems of overweight and obesity, the body mass index (BMI) is calculated.

BMI is calculated by dividing weight by height squared. In this way, when the BMI is above 30, a person is already considered obese. Based on these data, different degrees are distinguished:

  • Class 1 obesity : when the BMI is between 30 and 34.9.
  • Class 2 : when the BMI is between 35 and 39.9.
  • Extreme or class 3 obesity : the value exceeds 40.

However, it is important to know that this parameter is actually a rather rough measure. In some cases the BMI can be high but the person does not have a lot of fat, this is the case for people with a lot of muscle mass. For this reason it should only be used as an indicative guide.

In any case, it is worth remembering that obesity has a serious impact on all areas of health. It increases cardiovascular risk and impairs fertility.

According to a study published in a scientific journal of gynecology and obstetrics, this condition causes hormonal changes that reduce female fertility. Not only natural, it can also reduce the success of techniques such as in vitro fertilization.

Nutrition and obesity in pregnancy.
Nutrition before and during pregnancy is a key element of obesity in pregnancy.

How does obesity affect pregnancy?

As anticipated, obesity in pregnancy is a risk factor for both the mother and the fetus. In fact, this condition has been found to be related to an increase in complications during gestation.

First, as the Mayo Clinic explains, it increases the risk of miscarriage. This means a real risk of fetal death inside the womb during the first 20 weeks of gestation. Likewise, it has been linked to recurrent miscarriages.

During childbirth, obesity makes cesareans more common. This, in turn, leads to slower postpartum recovery and possible wound infections.

Preeclampsia is one of the most serious complications during pregnancy strongly associated with obesity. It raises the mother’s blood pressure and can damage the placenta, compromising blood flow to the fetus.

Risks to the mother’s health

Obesity poses a serious health risk to pregnant women. According to the Dorica study, obesity increases the possibility of cardiovascular disease. For example, it is associated with atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease.

Likewise, it also increases blood pressure and the risk of gestational diabetes, which is the increase in the mother’s blood sugar levels during pregnancy.

As a result, the fetus may grow larger than normal (a condition called macrosomia) and have problems with low blood sugar at birth.

Risks of Obesity in Pregnancy for the Baby

Obesity in pregnancy can cause the fetus to grow larger than normal. This not only complicates childbirth, but also makes the baby more likely to suffer from childhood obesity and then diabetes for the rest of his life .

Research from the National Institute of Child Health reports that obesity in pregnancy can cause defects in the neural tube – the structure through which the brain and spinal cord are formed. Finally, it has been associated with heart disease and birth injuries.

How Much Should I Gain Weight In Pregnancy?

The truth is that some weight gain is normal and correct during pregnancy. The doctor, in fact, usually makes an estimate depending on the condition of the mother and her BMI; therefore establishes how many kg it can take as a guide during gestation.

For example, in the case in which some obesity is already present and the pregnancy is of only one child, an increase of 9 kg is indicated. If the pregnancy is multiple, it can take between 11 and 19 kg.

Trying to lose weight at this stage can cause anxiety for the mother. In addition, it can lead to premature birth or the underweight of the newborn. Each case will be examined specifically by the specialist.

Pregnant woman measuring blood pressure.
Blood pressure can increase in obese mothers, resulting in the development of preeclampsia.

Tips for having a healthy pregnancy

To have a healthy pregnancy, it is best to plan for it. In this way, it is possible to adopt particular lifestyle habits. For example, you can try losing weight to reduce the incidence of obesity in pregnancy.

The ideal would be to follow a healthy and balanced diet. In other words, reduce your intake of high-fat ultra-processed foods and eliminate your intake of alcohol or other medications. In addition, foods rich in folic acid and iron should be introduced.

Likewise, it is important to try to achieve moderate physical activity. If you are in the habit of playing sports, you can continue even during pregnancy, it will offer many benefits to you and your babies. Going for a walk or a swim is recommended.

In conclusion, if you suffer from obesity and are planning a pregnancy, you must consult your doctor. These will give you case-specific recommendations that will improve your chances of a healthy pregnancy.

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