The number of obese pregnant women has doubled in just a decade, a new hospital study has revealed.
Obesity in expectant mothers has shot up from 22% in 2009 to 44% in 2018, the study at Ayrshire Maternity Unit in Kilmarnock, Scotland, showed.
About 29% of both men and women in the UK and Scotland are classified as obese meaning pregnant women are now significantly more likely to have obesity compared to the general population.
The findings, presented at this year’s European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Glasgow, also found that mums-to-be now tend to be “older, heavier, and have more complex medical histories.”
A link between the weight of expectant mothers and the size of newborns was also uncovered in the study, while rising pregnancy BMIs was attributed to having a role to play in the increase in the number of caesarean section births.
According to the research women are twice as likely to have a caesarean if they are morbidly obese, described as having a BMI over 40.
In 2018, approximately one in four pregnant women with a normal BMI – 18.5 to 25 – had a caesarean section compared with more than one in two pregnant women who are considered to be morbidly obesity.
According to the NHS obesity, which is classified as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above, can increase the risk of some complications during pregnancy including gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia, post-partum haemorrhage.
It also increases the risk of miscarriage – the overall risk of miscarriage under 12 weeks is one in five (20%); if you have a BMI over 30, the risk is one in four (25%)
The rise has implications for the health of women and their babies, and the cost to the NHS, experts warn.
Study authors believe poor diet, lack of exercise and modern lifestyles were driving the obesity explosion.
Commenting on the findings Dr Laura Jane Erunlu, from the University Crosshouse Hospital, Kilmarnock, in Scotland, said: “Pregnant women now tend to be older, heavier, and have more complex medical histories when they become pregnant.
“These complications pose specific challenges to our maternity services, and we must shape our healthcare services with this changing demographic in mind.
“Both increasing BMI and the rising incidence of caesarean section in pregnant women with obesity mandate a greater need for obstetric theatre services and accompanying medical and nursing staff.
“These latest figures are concerning and show how much of a worsening problem obesity in pregnancy has become.”
If you are very overweight (usually defined as having a BMI of 30 or above) and pregnant, the NHS doesn’t recommend trying to lose weight while you are expecting, as this may not be safe.
They suggest the best way to protect your health and your baby’s health is to go to all your antenatal appointments so that the midwife, doctor and any other health professionals can manage the risks that you might face due to your weight.
They do stress the importance of eating a healthy, balanced diet and doing physical activity every day.