Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Obesity During Pregnancy Increases Odds of Birth Defects

New research out today in the Journal of the American Medical Association gives obese women another reason to shed the pounds, especially if they are considering becoming pregnant. The researchers suggest losing any extra weight before conceiving - here's why.

Obesity poses major health risks to pregnant women and their unborn children. Obese women are more likely to give birth to children with neural tube defects such as spina bifida, heart problems, cleft palate, water in the brain, problems with the growth of arms and legs and several other defects. Pregnant obese women risk facing gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, an increased risk of blood clots and a higher chance of requiring C-sections (babies born to obese women are often larger than average).

According to the World Health Organization, 400 million people around the world are obese and this number is on the rise! In 2004 in the US alone, one third of women aged 15 and over were obese! Despite the fact that on the whole the occurrence of such birth defects is low, the risk that obese women face is several times higher than women of healthy weight.

The exact mechanism that links maternal obesity to an increased risk of birth defects is not yet clear, however the researchers suggest that obese women who are considering becoming pregnant should check with their doctors and make sure that they are at a safe weight. They should most definitely seek help if they are overweight so that they can improve their diet and lifestyle, and eat healthfully and sensibly in preparation for pregnancy.

In fact, all women of any weight who are considering pregnancy need to make sure that they are eating right in order to support the healthy growth and development of their children.