Pregnancy Risk Factor: Obesity
Body mass index (BMI) is a tool that is used to determine if a person is at a healthy weight, overweight, or obese, according to the National Institute of Health. It is a measure of body weight relative to height.
The best way to determine your BMI is to have your doctor do it for you. However, if you would like to calculate your own BMI, use the following formula: weight in kg / (height in m x height in m).
Underweight is defined as having a BMI less than 18.5 kg/m2. Normal weight is within a range of 18.5-24.9 kg/m2. If your BMI is between 25-29.9 kg/m2, you are considered overweight. If your BMI is over 29.9 kg/m2, you are classified as obese.
If you are obese, your pregnancy risks may include:
- Preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a serious medical condition characterized by high blood pressure, fluid retention, and abnormal kidney function. If left untreated, preeclampsia can lead to complications or death in the mother or baby.
- Increased likelihood of Cesarean Section. Because obese women are at risk for pregnancy-related complications like hypertension, blood clots, and gestational diabetes, this may lead your doctor to recommend a cesarean delivery.
- An increased risk of difficult postpartum recovery and consequently, postpartum infections.
- Gestational diabetes, which is high blood sugar in a pregnant woman. This condition can lead to low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and jaundice in your infant.
If you are obese during pregnancy, this could lead to many complications for your baby in the future. These complications include:
- Neural tube defects. A report by the public affairs committee of the Teratology Society found a correlation between maternal obesity and neural tube defects like spina bifida, which is a leading cause of childhood paralysis. If you are obese, you double the risk of having a child with neural tube defects.
- Childhood obesity and large-for-gestational-age (LGA). Being obese increases the chance that your infant’s weight will be above the 90th percentile at gestational age, or large for gestational age (LGA). If your baby is born LGA, he or she may have an increased risk of obesity later in life.
- Macrosomia. This is a condition in which the fetus grows abnormally large and often occurs if you have diabetes.
How to Reduce the Pregnancy Risk Factors of Obesity
If you are obese or at risk of becoming obese, there are some things you can do to reduce health risks during your pregnancy:
- Lose weight before your pregnancy. Early prevention is the best way to avoid health risks during your pregnancy.
- Eat healthy and exercise. Talk with your physician about beginning or continuing an exercise routine, and discuss proper caloric intake.
- Monitor your weight. You should never diet during your pregnancy, but you should reasonably monitor the amount of weight you will gain. The Institute of Medicine provides the acceptable amount of gestational weight gain according to the mother's pre-pregnancy weight. If you are underweight and your BMI is less than 18.5 kg/m2, you are recommended to gain between 28 and 40 pounds during pregnancy. If your pre-pregnancy BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9 kg/m2, you should gain about 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy, while if it is between 25 and 29.9 kg/m2, your weight gain should be between 15 and 25 pounds. If you are obese and your BMI is more than 30 kg/m2, you should gain somewhere between 11 and 20 pounds during pregnancy.
Obesity is a general health risk, but it is even more so during pregnancy. Working together with doctors before, during, and after pregnancy can help ensure your good health as well as the health of your unborn child.