Call for strategy to prevent obesity in mums-to-be

22 February 2018
Preghnant woman

Australian medical experts are calling for a national strategy to reduce obesity in mothers-to-be in order to prevent health problems associated with excessive weight in pregnancy.

The study, published in the Medical Journal of Australia, found there’s been a big increase in the number of overweight and obese first-time-mums in Australia over the past 25 years.

The researchers examined data from more than 42,000 first-time mothers who gave birth at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney between January 1990 and December 2014.

In that period, they found:

  • The percentage of mothers who were classified overweight increased from 12.7% to 16.4%
  • The percentage of mothers who were classified as obese increased from 4.8% to 7.3%
  • The percentage of mothers classified as having a ‘normal’ weight range fell from 73.5% to 68.2%.

Over the same period, the proportion of poor health outcomes attributable to excessive weight during pregnancy steadily increased.  Being overweight or obese was strongly associated with:

  • Pre-eclampsia
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Fetal macrosomia (when a baby weighs more than 4kg)

The researchers say a "wide range" of these complications could have been averted if women had lost enough weight to drop one BMI (body mass index) category.

They say this weight loss could have helped to prevent:

  • 19.0% of pre-eclampsia
  • 15.9% of macrosomia
  • 14.2% of gestational diabetes
  • 8.5% of caesarean deliveries
  • 7.1% of stillbirths
  • 6.8% of post partum haemorrhage
  • 6.5% of admissions to the special care nursery
  • 5.8% of prematurity
  • 3.8% of fetal abnormality.

The authors have called for a greater investment in obesity prevention strategies that target women prior to starting a family.

They say much scientific evidence shows how vital the period prior to conception is.

“Our results indicate that the frequency of adverse perinatal outcomes could be reduced by shifting the distribution of overweight and obesity among first-time mothers by a single BMI class.

“Investing in obesity prevention strategies that target women prior to their becoming pregnant is likely to provide the greatest benefit,” they say.

You can read the full article on obesity and pregnancy here.