• Shruti GOCHHWAL

How Does Being “Overweight” Affect Pregnancy?

How Does Being “Overweight” Affect Pregnancy?

Pregnant Woman

Obesity Is a Serious Health Problem

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), obesity is considered to be one of the serious health problems of the 21st century. In recent years there is a dramatic increase in obesity among pregnant women. Those women who are overweight and pregnant may have pregnancy-related complications. Let’s see how it affects the mother and baby and how it can be managed.

What Is Overweight And Obese?

Obesity is defined as excessive body fat which is likely to impair your health.

You are classified as overweight or obese based on your body mass index (BMI). BMI is a measurement based on your height and weight.BMIWeight statusless than 18.5Underweight18.5 to 24.9Healthy weight25-29.9Overweight30 to 40Obese

According to WHO, the prevalence of obesity in pregnancy ranges from 1.8 to 25.3%.

How Obesity Affects Pregnancy?

Overweight and pregnancy

Ovaries, Credits: pixabay


Overweight and obese women have higher levels of leptin hormone, which is produced in fatty tissue. This can disrupt the hormone balance and lead to reduced fertility.

Women, who are obese or underweight, may have reduced fertility when compared to women who have a healthy weight. This subfertility could be due to a decrease in frequency or complete absence of ovulation.

Obese women who conceive through assisted reproductive techniques (ART) may face certain problems (duration of ovarian stimulation, fertilization rate, embryo transfer rate as well as implantation and pregnancy rates).

What Are The Problems Associated With Obesity During Pregnancy?

Women who are overweight and pregnant may be at risk of certain health problems.

  1. Gestational diabetes 

  2. Preeclampsia

  3. Cesarean section

1. Gestational Diabetes

Person checking sugar levels in blood using glucometer

A person checking blood sugar


Though there are a lot of factors (age, family history) associated with gestational diabetes, obesity is considered to be an independent risk factor for the development of gestational diabetes.

Overweight and pregnant women with gestational diabetes tend to have babies with higher birth weight.

2. Preeclampsia

Overweight and pregnant women are two to three times at a higher risk of developing preeclampsia than women with a normal weight.

3. Cesarean Section

Obese women are two folds at an increased risk for undergoing cesarean section.

Also, women who are overweight or obese are more susceptible to postoperative complications, such as excessive blood loss, deep venous thrombosis, wound infection, and postpartum uterine infection.

Other common problems overweight and pregnant women may face include sleep apnea (a person stops breathing for short periods during sleep), thrombosis (blood clots), preterm birth, cardiac dysfunction, longer labor, and heavy bleeding after birth.

What Are The Problems For My Baby If I Am Overweight?

The following are the complications a baby can face if his/her mother is overweight or obese during pregnancy.

  1. Miscarriage

  2. Preterm birth

  3. Neural tube defects

  4. Macrosomia

  5. Stillbirth

  6. Childhood asthma and childhood obesity

1. Miscarriage

The higher a woman’s BMI, the greater are the chances of a miscarriage (1 in 4 pregnancies)

2. Preterm Birth

Preterm Baby

A baby


Problems associated with obesity such as high blood pressure can lead to preterm birth, that is, the baby is delivered at an early date for medical reasons.

3. Neural Tube Defects

Babies born to obese mothers may have higher chances of developing neural tube defects (abnormalities in the baby’s skull and spine) and cardiovascular abnormalities.

4. Macrosomia

Pregnant women who are obese and have gestational diabetes are at risk of producing overweight babies (>4kg). This may lead to fatal injury and also baby’s shoulder may get stuck during delivery. Macrosomia increases the chances of a cesarean section.  Babies born to overweight women may become obese later in their life.

5. Still Birth

The chances of stillbirth (1 in every 100 births in obese women versus 1 in 200 in normal women) increase in obese pregnant women.

6. Childhood asthma and childhood obesity are the other problems your baby can face due to obesity.

Management of Obesity

The recommended gestational weight gain is 11.5 to 16.0 kg (0.5 to 2.0 kg for the first trimester and 0.35 to 0.50 kg per week for the second and third trimesters). Women who are overweight should not exceed these weight gain recommendations.

Before Pregnancy

Losing weight before pregnancy is the ideal choice to avoid complications in the future. Also, weight loss before pregnancy results in a better chance for conception and increases the percentage of live births for obese women with or without polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

During Pregnancy

Losing weight by dieting during pregnancy is not recommended and this may harm your baby. Concentrate on eating well and do physical exercises.

Healthy Eating

Healthy foods, healthy salads, vegetables on a table

Healthy eating will benefit you and your baby. You can consult a dietician and understand how many calories you require based on your height and weight. She may even give you a weekly plan and help you to stay energetic and active with low-calorie foods.

  1. Don’t “Eat for two”

  2. Try eating small meals throughout the day instead of large meals

  3. Drink plenty of water and have fiber-rich foods like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.

  4. Choose low glycemic foods.

  5. Don’t suppress your appetite with pills and beverages

  6. Cut out fried foods and sugary drinks

  7. Take your prenatal supplements for folic acid, iron, and calcium supplements

Stay Active

Walking with a dog in the park, walking holding hands with your partner
  1. Walking, swimming and gardening can help you stay active.

  2. Don’t do any vigorous exercise. Start walking or do any other exercise for 15 minutes and gradually increase the time.

  3. Avoid sitting for a longer time.

  4. Take the stairs

Not all obese women have poor pregnancy outcomes. Overweight and pregnant women can have healthy babies. It requires careful monitoring of your weight to reduce the complications.

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