Fertility and pregnancy * Women's health * Weight loss

Obesity can lead to complications in pregnancy

obesity raises risk of minor complications in pregnancy It increases the risk to mother and baby

Expectant mothers who are obese are much more likely to suffer minor complications during their pregnancy, a new study suggests.

The study, from the University of Edinburgh, found that chest infections in obese pregnant women were nearly 10 times more likely than in pregnant women of healthy weight, and the risk of headaches and heartburn was more than double.

Obese pregnant women were found to be three times more likely to have carpal tunnel syndrome, which occurs when an increase in fluid causes swelling in the wrist. The condition can lead to tingling, pain, numbness and lack of coordination in the hands.

The study looked at the records of more than 650 pregnant women, half of whom were overweight or obese at the beginning of their pregnancy. It took into account factors such as age and smoking.

It also found that obese women had a more than three times greater risk of suffering from a condition known as symphysis-pubis dysfunction, which affects the pelvic joints and may cause walking difficulties if severe.

"Although symptoms such as heartburn are common and generally perceived to be benign, they can still have a major impact on the quality of life for pregnant women and can be linked to more serious conditions. What may be termed as minor complications can make a pregnancy much more uncomfortable and are also associated with higher treatment costs," said Dr Rebecca Reynolds, who led the study.

The costs of treating minor complications in obese women are estimated to be more than three times that of treating women of a healthy body weight.

Obesity during pregnancy also increases the risk of more serious conditions such as gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia and the need for a caesarean section. While about a quarter of pregnant women are obese, more than one third of pregnancy-related deaths occur in this group.

The study was published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

This article was published on Mon 20 July 2009

Image © Anatoly Tiplyashin - Fotolia.com

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