With 40% of American women meeting the criteria for being obese, understanding the impact of obesity on pregnancy is critical. The biggest takeaway from this read should be how obesity is not only threatening to mom but also to baby and continues to have lasting effects on your child.
Doctors recommend that obese women lose weight before becoming pregnant. Obese women are 35% less likely to become pregnant, and for those who do become pregnant, there is an increased risk of stillborn births by 2x the rate of normal weight women.
Obese mothers additionally are at increased risk for complications during pregnancy; examples include, increased risk of miscarriage, c-sections, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and sleep apnea. Babies born to obese mothers are more likely to become obese as children and as adults, suffer from neural tube defects, and be premature. In the U.S., being obese has officially become a marker for a high-risk pregnancy (MSU, 2009).
Extra weight makes the body's use of insulin much harder. With elevated blood sugar and insulin levels, this can cause the baby to put on excess weight, which may cause the baby to be too big to enter the birth canal. Preeclampsia is the leading cause of deaths for both mom and baby. Preeclampsia can cause damage to a pregnant woman's liver, kidneys, and brain; babies can have low birth weight, premature delivery, and placental abruption (separation of the placenta). If the placenta separates from the wall of the uterus, the baby can be deprived of oxygen and nutrients, which makes this a medical emergency.
While all of this is very serious and very scary, the good news is, moms do have the power to take control of their weight and health before becoming pregnant. Additionally, women can begin exercising at any point during their pregnancy with the okay from their doctor, even if they have never worked out before. It doesn't have to be very strenuous, and can actually be a lot of fun, especially when making it part of healthy family planning.
If you have struggled with weight related issues, you know how emotionally taxing it can be so taking a stand and embracing your health with your baby in mind will help you stay the course! Investing in your health will be the gift that keeps on giving to both you and your little one.
Julia Broome is passionate about health, nutrition and exercise. She is most excited about educating women on the short and long term impact of exercise and proper nutrition on pregnant women and their baby.