Obesity epidemic is putting unborn children at risk

Health professionals are dealing with "an epidemic of obesity" among pregnant women as weight gain across the population continues to rise, experts warn today.

About half of women of childbearing age are now either overweight (with a BMI measured at 25-29.9) or obese (with a BMI of 30 or above), according to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice).

The organisation today launches new public health guidance on weight management before, during and after pregnancy, in the face of concern about the risks obesity poses to mothers and babies.

Potential complications include miscarriage, pre-eclampsia, thromboembolism and maternal death. Research also suggests obese women are more likely to have an induced or longer labour, instrumental delivery or a postpartum haemorrhage.

Babies born to obese women faced significant health risks such as a greater chance of congenital abnormality, shoulder dystocia – where a baby's shoulder becomes stuck – and the potential for a baby to be too large for their gestational age, increasing the likelihood of obesity in childhood. They are also more likely to be stillborn. The guidelines outlined the importance for women in achieving a healthy weight and BMI prior to pregnancy and stressed there was no need to "eat for two".

The document, aimed at helping GPs, obstetricians, midwives, health visitors and dieticians support pregnant women, also advised against females trying to lose weight or go on a "crash diet" during pregnancy.

It stressed the need to provide women with advice on reducing their weight safely after childbirth, with information on healthy eating and exercise or a structured weight loss programme for those with a BMI of 30 or more.

Louise Silverton, the deputy general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, said: "There is a real need to address the issue of obesity, and this draft guidance shows this is particularly important for pregnant women. The growing volume of evidence shows that the health of a mother with obesity is further compromised by the pregnancy, also impacting the health of her unborn baby.

"Midwives are ideally placed to assist women in developing healthy lifestyles during pregnancy and during the postnatal period. As a result of the increase in obesity among pregnant women, midwives are, on top of the continuing baby boom, dealing with more complex births.

"These women need to see a midwife as early as possible in their pregnancy. They need more time to spend with a midwife to help and advise them as well as involving the wider healthcare team."

Professor Lucilla Poston, director of maternal and fetal research at King's College London, said: "We have an epidemic of obesity amongst our pregnant population. At St Thomas'... there has been an exponential increase in obesity amongst our women attending antenatal clinics, such that now 40 per cent of the women are overweight or obese, and in the UK the best statistics we have suggests between 15 per cent and 20 per cent of pregnant women are coming into pregnancy with a BMI which is less than ideal."

She added that obese women were at an increased risk of "almost every complication in the book in pregnancy".

Annie Anderson, professor of food choice at the University of Dundee's Centre for Public Health Nutrition Research said: "It's estimated that, over the last 20 years, the number of women into their pregnancy in the obese category has doubled. It's going to get bigger and it's time to take stock about what to do about that."

ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

    £35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

    Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

    £45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

    Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

    £60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

    Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power