Obesity Increases Birth Defect Risk
Heart, Spine, and Limb Defects Seen More
Diabetes and Birth Defects continued...
While women with known, nongestational diabetes were excluded from the
latest study, it is likely that some of the obese women had type 2 diabetes and
didn’t know it.
Waller says undiagnosed diabetes could be largely responsible for the
increase in birth defect risk seen among babies born to obese women in the
When the researchers reanalyzed the data excluding women who developed
gestational diabetes during pregnancy, the maternal obesity-birth defect link
was much smaller, she says, but it did not disappear entirely.
"Obese women need to follow the same recommendations as other women
prior to becoming pregnant," she says. "But it would also be a good
idea for them to see their doctor and get tested for diabetes. We know that
many women have diabetes and don't know it. Identifying diabetes and
controlling it prior to pregnancy can make a big difference."
March of Dimes acting director Michael Katz, MD, calls the study intriguing,
but he adds that more research is needed to confirm the link between obesity
and major birth defects.
"No matter what a woman’s weight, it is important to plan a
pregnancy," he tells WebMD. "Planning ahead and taking steps to reduce
modifiable risks can make all the difference."