Obesity ups risk of pregnancy deaths and birth defects

Obesity during pregnancy is dangerous not only to the baby but also to the mother! Maternal mortality can now be added to the list of potential risks associated with the growing incidence of obesity in Queensland, claim experts.

Obese pregnant women are at a greater risk of suffering death than those of normal weight. Moreover, being obese and pregnant threatens lives of babies adding to the rates of birth defects.

According to experts, the surging rates of overweight pregnant women in the Sunshine State is serious cause for concern. Fears that the state may be heading in the same direction as the US, where maternal mortality rates more than doubled from 1987 to 2009, have prompted Queensland Health to start collecting statistics to help stem the issue.

“Queensland Health must now be notified if any woman dies while she is pregnant, or within 365 days of her pregnancy,” Queensland Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said.

The new mandatory reporting measures would not only give them a clearer picture about the impact obesity is having on pregnant women but will pave the way for developing better treatment options, said Mr Springborg.

“The rising prevalence of diseases like diabetes, chronic heart disease and hypertension, generally resulting from obesity, are becoming more common in Queensland women of reproductive age,” he said.

Analytical data to assess link between pregnancy and obesity-related deaths
Associate Professor Rebecca Kimble, chair of the statewide maternity and neo-natal clinical network, says the informal data collected from the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital indicates a surge in overweight or obese pregnant women.

Data analysis from 2008 to 2012 reveals that nearly a quarter of pregnant women at the hospital – including those who were flown from Brisbane or transferred there- were overweight and around 20 percent were obese.

The rising incidence of obesity has fueled anaesthetic risks, pre-term delivery rates, post-operative complications and issues such as hypertension and diabetes, says the research team.

Kimble stated, “The risks of being overweight or obese during pregnancy don’t only relate to mothers but also contribute to a rise in the rates of birth defects, stillbirths and late fetal deaths.”