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Obesity Carries Pregnancy Risks

Obese Women More Likely to Have Babies With Birth Defects, Study Shows

Obesity & Birth Defects: Other Opinions

The new review further confirms what physicians have known for a long time, says Sina Haeri, MD, a clinical instructor of maternal-fetal medicine and a fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine.

The problem with some of the previous studies, he tells WebMD, is that they had some methodological weaknesses. "So we took it all with a grain of salt," says Haeri, who recently reported that teen moms who are obese are more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes during the pregnancy (gestational diabetes) and to have cesarean deliveries.

In the new analysis, he says, the U.K. researchers took all the smaller studies and looked at them together and still found the obesity and birth defects link.

The new analysis confirms in a convincing way what physicians have been observing and studies have been suggesting for a few years, says Peter Bernstein, MD, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York.

Obesity & Birth Defects: Preconception Counseling

Women who are obese should have preconception counseling to minimize the risks of their excess weight to the newborns, Rankin says.

That is also the opinion of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The organization's committee on obstetric practice issued its committee opinion on "Obesity in Pregnancy" in September 2005, recommending preconception counseling. Obese women should be informed of the risks associated with maternal obesity, be screened for gestational diabetes, and be assessed for the need for supplements of vitamins and minerals, including folate. Obese women should be advised to gain less weight than other women -- 15 pounds compared to 25 to 35 for women who were normal weight before pregnancy -- the opinion says.

"The most important prenatal visit is probably the one that happens before the woman gets pregnant," says Bernstein, who serves on the CDC's Select Panel on Preconception Care.

"It is not advisable to try to lose weight while pregnant," Rankin says. "The important thing is to have a sensible diet and try to eat healthfully."


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