Obesity and Pregnancy

How Is Obesity Defined?

Obesity means having excess body fat. There is a formula used to calculate your body mass index (BMI). If you have a BMI of 25 or higher you are considered overweight, and if it is 30 or higher, you are considered obese.

Can obesity complicate my pregnancy?

Obesity increases the risk for the following complications during pregnancy:

  • Gestational diabetes: You may be more likely to develop gestational diabetes than women of normal weight. Gestational diabetes can mean that you are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.
  • Preeclampsia: This condition causes high blood pressure and protein in the urine after 20 weeks of pregnancy. It can be quite serious but, if discovered, it can be treated.
  • Infection: If you are pregnant and obese you have a greater risk of urinary tract infections as well as infections after delivery.
  • Thrombosis: This condition is when a blood clot forms inside a blood vessel. It is a serious condition that obese women are at greater risk of developing.
  • Sleep apnea: A serious sleep disorder in which breathing stops and starts while sleeping. Obese pregnant women are at greater risk for this condition or it may get worse if you have already been diagnosed with sleep apnea.
  • Overdue: Obesity in pregnancy may cause overdue babies.
  • Labor: The need to induce labor is more common with obesity, and obesity can affect the success of certain pain medications during delivery.
  • C-section: Obesity in pregnancy can mean a greater chance of C-section delivery as well as C-section complications such as longer healing time and wound infections.
  • Pregnancy loss: There is a greater chance of miscarriage and stillbirth in pregnant women who are obese.

Can obesity affect my baby?

Health problems for your baby can include:

  • Macrosomia: If you are obese and pregnant, your baby has an increased chance of being larger at birth with increased body fat. This could be a risk factor for childhood obesity.
  • Greater risk: Your baby may also be at greater risk for heart disease or diabetes as an adult.
  • Birth defects: Your baby may have a slightly higher risk of a birth defect such as a heart condition or neural tube defect.

What steps should I take?

If you are obese, you will need to have your pregnancy closely monitored.

  • Have a preconception appointment with your OB/GYN to get recommendations on how you can make changes and reach a healthy weight before becoming pregnant.
  • Have regular prenatal care and discuss how to manage any medical conditions that you might have. You may be required to have more frequent prenatal visits.
  • You may have early testing for gestational diabetes
  • Discuss ways with your OB/GYN to have the healthiest pregnancy for you and for your baby.