4 out of 10 mothers overweight, hospital study finds

FOUR out of 10 mothers are overweight, a major study just published by one of the country’s largest maternity hospitals reveals.

The study was based on 5,824 mothers who attended the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital (CWIUH) in Dublin last year.

Dr Nadine Farah and her colleagues at CWIUH found that 43% of mothers were overweight — 13% were obese and 2% morbidly obese.

Obesity in pregnancy is associated with high occurrences of medical complications and an increased need for obstetric intervention.

All of the mothers taking part in the study had their body mass index (BMI) calculated in the first trimester at their first antenatal visit.

Just 3% of women were underweight, while 54% were normal weight.

The findings showed a much higher risk of complications for morbidly obese mothers with 42% having to have labour induced, compared to less than a quarter of those of normal weight.

Almost 36% of morbidly obese mothers had pregnancy induced hypertension, compared with just under 10% of women who were a normal weight.

Morbidly obese women had higher caesarean section rates — 45% compared to about 14% of women whose weight was normal. They were also likely to develop more complications with their caesarean section.

There was also an increased risk of diabetes for morbidly obese mothers — 20% developed gestational diabetes.

Dr Farah, a lecturer at University College Dublin, said there was no national data on trends in maternal obesity but the incidence of morbid obesity at CWIUH was high, compared with the limited amount of international data.

“Hospitals, midwives and obstetricians need to seriously consider the long-term impact of the rise in morbidly obese mothers and make provisions for appropriate equipment and resources to deal with this problem,” she said.

It was also found that maternal obesity in Ireland tends to be under-reported because mothers generally self-report their BMI inaccurately.

Dr Farah said their research showed that BMI calculations based on self-reporting resulted in under-reporting of obesity in 5% of women.

She pointed out that the more precise BMI data measurement developed at CWIUH had allowed them to analyse more effectively the implications of weight in pregnancy. Dr Farah said the research also allowed them to dismiss previous studies suggesting that maternal weight increased during the first trimester of pregnancy.


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