Fertility and pregnancy * Healthy living * Weight loss

Obesity epidemic in pregnant women

Obesity epidemic in pregnant women Health risk to mother and baby

Obese mums-to-be should be encouraged to lose weight before becoming pregnant, experts say.

Around one in five pregnant women in England are now overweight or obese at the start of their pregnancy, putting both themselves and their babies at higher risk of serious health problems.

New guidelines published to-day by the health watchdog NICE, say that GPs and midwives should warn women of the health risks of having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more during pregnancy.

Professor Lucilla Poston, director of maternal and foetal research at King's College London said that obese women were at increased risk of "almost every complication in the book in pregnancy."

These include a greater risk of impaired glucose intolerance, gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, blood clots, and even death.

Babies of obese mothers have a higher risk of congenital abnormalities, shoulder dystocia (where one of the baby's shoulder becomes stuck) and are more likely to be obese themselves because of changes that occur inside the womb.

The watchdog also advises against “eating for two” or drinking full-fat milk, popular old wives' tales.

“Energy requirements for pregnant women do increase but not until the last trimester,” said Professor Annie Anderson, a member of the guidance development group and an expert in food choice at the University of Dundee.

“They increase by a very small amount of 200 calories a day, so that’s a couple of slices of toast or a milky drink at bedtime.”

Instead it recommends that women stick to a healthy diet, gentle exercise and should avoid trying to lose weight rapidly after the baby is born.

Professor Mike Kelly, Director of the Centre for Public Health Excellence at NICE, added: “Women should understand that weight loss after birth takes time and that physical activity and gradual weight loss will not affect their ability to breastfeed.

“Losing weight gradually can actually help women maintain a healthy weight in the long-term.”

The watchdog also wants more local authorities to give women the opportunity to exercise at low cost with creches available for children.

This article was published on Wed 28 July 2010

Image © Jose Manuel Gelpi - Fotolia.com

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