Obesity in Pregnancy

Obesity in Pregnancy

Obesity, defined as having a BMI of 30 or greater, poses a number of health risks. In pregnancy, these risks can include:

  • Gestational hypertension, or high blood pressure, which can start during the second half of pregnancy and lead to serious complications.
  • Preeclampsia, a condition brought on by gestational hypertension that can cause your kidneys and liver to fail. In rare cases, seizures, heart attack, and stroke can happen. Other risks include problems with the placenta and growth problems for the fetus.
  • Gestational diabetes, or diabetes brought on during pregnancy. This can increase your risk of having a very large baby and needing cesarean birth. If you have had gestational diabetes, you and your baby may have a higher risk of diabetes mellitus in the future.
  • Obstructive sleep apnea, a condition in which a person stops breathing for short periods during sleep. During pregnancy, sleep apnea can cause fatigue and increase the risk of high blood pressure, preeclampsia and heart and lung problems.

Losing weight before you get pregnant is the best way to decrease your pregnancy health risks. Talk to your doctor if you have obesity and are planning to become pregnant. Even losing a small amount of weight can improve your overall health and pave the way for a healthier pregnancy. Learn more about our Bariatric Weight Loss Program.

The Effects of Obesity on Pregnancy

If you are obese and pregnant, your baby is at increased risk of the following:

  • Birth defects. Babies born to women contending with obesity have an increased risk of birth defects such as heart defects and neural tube defects (NTDs).
  • Difficulty with diagnostic tests. A surplus of body fat can make it difficult to see certain problems with the fetus’s anatomy on an ultrasound exam. Checking the fetus’s heart rate during labor may also be more difficult.
  • Macrosomia, or large fetus. This can increase the risk of injury during birth and may necessitate a cesarean birth. Macrosomia also increases a baby’s risk of having obesity later in life.
  • Preterm birth. Babies born before 37 weeks of gestation are at increased risk of short-term and long-term health problems.
  • Stillbirth. High BMI is associated with an increased risk of stillbirth.
Healthy Pregnancy and Obesity

While obesity increases the risk of serious complications for you and your baby, it is possible for a woman with obesity to have a healthy pregnancy. Working closely with your doctor, staying on top of your prenatal care and maintaining a healthy diet with plenty of exercise can help you to enjoy a successful pregnancy.

Your Hoag obstetrician will calculate your BMI at your first prenatal visit and make a recommendation about the amount of weight you should gain throughout pregnancy.

Your weight, as well as the growth of your baby, should be checked regularly. If you are gaining less than the recommended guidelines, and if your baby is growing well, you do not have to increase your weight gain to catch up to the guidelines. If your baby is not growing well, changes may need to be made to your diet and exercise plan.

Obesity Post-Pregnancy

Women who are overweight or have obesity may have longer labors than other women. Because fetal monitoring during labor may be more difficult for women with obesity, a cesarean section may be needed.

If a cesarean birth is needed, obesity can increase the risks of infection, bleeding, and other complications. Your Hoag doctor will work with you to reduce your risk of complications.

Once you are home with your new baby, try sticking to healthy eating and exercise habits to achieve a normal weight. Breastfeeding is also recommended for the first year of a baby’s life, as it benefits the baby and may also help with postpartum weight loss. Overall, women who breastfeed their babies for at least a few months tend to lose pregnancy weight faster than women who do not breastfeed.

It can be difficult to lose the weight you gained during pregnancy. Because weight can add up with each pregnancy, it can help to give yourself enough time to recover from pregnancy and lose excess weight before you get pregnant again. Learn more about our Bariatric Weight Loss Program.