Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Health & Pregnancy

Font Size

Obesity Increases Birth Defect Risk

Heart, Spine, and Limb Defects Seen More

Twofold Rise in Spina Bifida continued...

A slightly lower increase in risk was identified for omphaleocele, a condition in which the intestines or another abdominal organ protrudes through the navel.

Obesity-related risk increases in the range of 20% to 50% were also seen for heart defects, limb abnormalities, malformations in the anal opening or urethra in boys, and a condition known as diaphragmatic hernia, which can interfere with lung development.

The study is published in the August issue of the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.

Diabetes and Birth Defects

Having uncontrolled or poorly controlled diabetes prior to conception or early in pregnancy has been linked to an increased risk for major birth defects in both animal and human studies.

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 study.

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."

1 | 2

Pregnancy Week-By-Week Newsletter

Delivered right to your inbox, get pictures and facts on
what to expect each week of your pregnancy.

Today on WebMD

hand circling date on calendar
Track your most fertile days.
woman looking at ultrasound
Week-by-week pregnancy guide.
Pretty pregnant woman timing contaction pains
The signs to watch out for.
pregnant woman in hospital
Are there ways to do it naturally?
slideshow fetal development
pregnancy first trimester warning signs
What Causes Bipolar
Woman trying on dress in store
pregnant woman
Close up on eyes of baby breastfeeding
healthtool pregnancy calendar
eddleman prepare your body pregnancy