Weighty matters in pregnancy

By • Published: June 3rd, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

When a baby is born, one of the first reports to hit the streets usually goes something like this: “It’s a girl! Seven pounds, nine ounces, twenty-two inches.” But as interested as everyone is in baby’s size, doctors say a mother’s size is just as important when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth.

Why? Bigger moms tend to incur bigger complications. A study recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine revealed that on average, obese mothers were hospitalized about four days longer than normal-weight women were. They also tended to see the doctor more, take more medications and undergo more tests.

Researchers say certain complications are more common among overweight women, which explains the longer hospital stays and additional tests and treatment. For example, about one in five normal-weight moms has a Caesarean section, while almost half of extremely obese women do. Extra pounds also increase the risk of gestational diabetes and preeclampsia, a form of high blood pressure.

Experts say mom isn’t the only one at risk. A 2006 study showed that obese moms are more apt to have babies with certain birth defects.

Doctors recommend women get to a healthy weight before conception. If the little bundle of joy is already on the way, dieting is out, but experts still advise women to stay within healthy weight gain limits, eat nutritious meals and get mild exercise.

That way the stork delivers a healthy baby, not extra pounds… and the headaches that too often go with them.