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Overweight and Pregnant: Danger Ahead

March 19, 2016
Plain English Version

obese pregnantA doctor reports on overweight patients who are pregnant.

People who are obese have many problems. They often suffer from high blood pressure (hypertension) and diabetes.

A person is overweight when their body mass index (B.M.I.) is higher than 25. They are obese when their B.M.I. is 30 or more. Your B.M.I. is a measure of your fat based on your height and weight.

About two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese.

An obese pregnant woman is more likely to have a very large baby. It may weigh nine pounds or more. Babies of obese mothers are more likely to become overweight or obese adults.

The doctor says overweight pregnant women are more likely to have complications giving birth. They are more likely to need cesareans. They are more likely to have problems such as infections, hernias and life-threatening bleeding.

The doctor tells of a case of “shoulder dystocia.” The baby’s head delivers, but the shoulders are too big to pass through the birth canal. Shoulder dystocia comes from obesity. It can lead to permanent fetal injury, neurological disorders and even death.

Another danger is pre-eclampsia. This is a maternal condition of elevated blood pressure, swelling and organ dysfunction. It can lead to the mother having seizures, stroke and liver rupture. It is a leading cause of maternal death. It is more likely to happen to obese patients.

Babies born to women with pre-eclampsia are more likely to develop autism or developmental delays.

Critics say doctors are slow to talk to patients about their weight problems. They are concerned that patients will become “less satisfied with their doctors” and this will reflect poorly on the doctor.

Under the Affordable Care Act, more women have access to nutrition and health services.  Obesity should be managed as aggressively as elevated blood pressure and diabetes.

Source: The New York Times March 28, 2015

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