Pregnancy and obesity: Know the risks

The obesity epidemic is affecting every age group in North America and women who are hoping to get pregnant are no exception. Few people realize that obesity poses an additional risk for women and their babies during pregnancy.

The obesity epidemic is affecting every age group in North America and women who are hoping to get pregnant are no exception. Few people realize that obesity poses an additional risk for women and their babies during pregnancy.

Obesity is defined as excess body fat. The body mass index (BMI) is commonly used to identify obesity. The BMI is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in meters, squared. Individuals with a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 kg/m2 are considered normal, whereas persons between 25 and 29.9 kg/m2 are considered overweight and those above 30 kg/m2 are considered obese.

Even before conception, being obese inhibits normal ovulation and can affect your fertility. Afterwards, excess weight in the mother is associated with an increased risk of complications, including:
- Gestational diabetes
- Infections
- Preeclampsia, which involves an increase in blood pressure and the presence of protein in the urine; this complication can be associated with serious consequences for both the mother and the baby
- Thrombosis (the formation of a blood clot inside a blood vessel)
- Sleep apnea
- Pregnancy continuing beyond the expected due date
- A more difficult labour
- Requiring a C-section
- A greater risk of miscarriage and stillbirth

Obesity in the mother may also be associated with babies weighing more than average. It may increase the risk that the baby will develop chronic conditions such as heart disease or diabetes as an adult, and is associated with a slightly greater risk of birth defects.

It is possible, however, for women to limit the impact of obesity on their pregnancy by adopting strategies to get closer to a healthy weight even before becoming pregnant and by ensuring they have a sufficient folic acid intake. It’s never too late to start implementing healthy dietary habits and begin integrating physical exercise into your lifestyle, especially when two people benefit as a result!

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