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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 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."

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