Obesity during pregnancy may lead directly to fetal overgrowth, NIH study suggests
Obesity during pregnancy — independent of its health consequences such as diabetes — may account for the higher risk of giving birth to an atypically large infant, according to researchers at the National Institutes of Health. Their study appears in JAMA Pediatrics.
“Our results underscore the importance of attaining a healthy body weight before pregnancy,” said the study’s lead author, Cuilin Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., a researcher in the Division of Intramural Population Health Research at NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. “They also suggest that clinicians should carefully monitor the pregnancies of all obese women, regardless of whether or not they have obesity-related health conditions.”
Macrosomia — large body size at birth — is common among children born to obese women, particularly those who have gestational diabetes (high blood sugar during pregnancy). Macrosomia increases the risk that an infant will experience bone fracture during delivery. It also increases the likelihood that the infant will need to be delivered by cesarean section. Having a large infant also increases a mother’s risk for postpartum hemorrhage, or excessive bleeding at birth.
In the current study, researchers analyzed ultrasound scans taken throughout pregnancy of more than 2,800 pregnant women: 443 obese women with no accompanying health conditions, such as diabetes, and more than 2300 non-obese women. The researchers categorized the women’s weight according to their body mass index (BMI) score. Women with a BMI ranging from 30 to 44.9 were classified as obese, while those with a BMI of 29.9 were considered non-obese.
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