The Risks Obesity Poses To Pregnancy

Last night my husband and I had another serious talk about having children. It is so hard when you know you want to have them someday, but it never seems like just the right time. Unfortunately, nature does not give you a lifetime for deciding when to have children, at least not for women. So after numerous conversations over the years and knowing this is something we both want, we have decided to throw caution to the wind and begin trying to have a child. I am really excited about this decision, but also really nervous because I don’t know what to expect. One thing I wasn’t sure about was the risks obesity poses to pregnancy. So last night I was up to the wee hours in the morning reading as much information as I can on the subject. Here’s a summary for any of you who are overweight and considering getting pregnant.

There are a number or risks obesity poses to pregnancy and is the reason why overweight women are encouraged to lose weight before becoming pregnant.

There are a number or risks obesity poses to pregnancy and is the reason why overweight women are encouraged to lose weight before becoming pregnant.

Being very overweight or obese typically comes with a host of health problems. Anyone with a BMI (body mass index) of at least 30 is considered obese by the medical community (despite my amazing weight loss, my BMI is 32). Some who are obese are healthier than others of the same BMI, but they still risk their health if they do not lose weight. It is not ideal to become pregnant while fitting in the obese category, but it can happen and it can turn out alright. There are some specific problems that can come about for an obese mom-to-be of which she needs to pay special attention. Dads should also know about these so they too can look for signs of a potential problem.

Gestational diabetes can happen with obese pregnant women, though a woman does not need to be obese to have this complication. Some women who have PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) also have insulin resistance (please read the post “Weight Loss, Insulin Resistance and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome“). This is often the reason they are overweight or struggle to lose weight. When such a women is pregnant, she runs the risk of gestational diabetes forming during the second half of the pregnancy. It usually goes away after birth, but can have serious complications for mom and baby if not monitored and treated during pregnancy.

Preeclampsia is another problem that is more common in obese moms-to-be. This condition can be very dangerous if not noticed and treated. This condition causes high blood pressure and fluid retention. These can sometimes be severe. The mother may appear to be swollen and will be carrying a lot of extra water weight in her legs and feet, if not other areas as well. If left to go out of control, this can cause blood flow restriction, which in turn harms the unborn baby.

Obese women are at a higher risk for a Cesarean section. It is thought that overweight moms have a harder and slower labor, which may result in fetal distress. When that happens, a Cesarean is necessary. Along with the typical risks of surgery, there is also a higher rate of infection after a Cesarean that can put the life of the mother at risk. Note that many obese moms have normal delivery, and that this is also something that can happen to women of healthy weight.

Other risks obesity poses to pregnancy have to do with the development of the fetus. These are all risks with any pregnancy, but the chances of them occurring rise a bit higher with obesity. That is why obese women are encouraged to lose some weight before becoming pregnant if they can. These include an increased risk of neural tube defects, cleft palate, spina bifida, fluid on the brain, cardiovascular problems, and limb abnormalities.

After doing my research last night about the risks obesity poses to pregnancy, I decided the best thing I could do was make an appointment with my doctor and discuss with her all of my concerns about being overweight and pregnant. I think that continuing to lose weight and a visit with my doctor is likely the best thing I can do to make myself as healthy as possible for pregnancy.

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