Pregnant women allowing themselves to be overweight is criminal as they are not only putting their lives in danger but also their unborn baby, Dr Eva Orsmond is warning.
Young mothers who continue to flout guidelines on healthy weight levels while pregnant and when in labour are not only placing massive health burdens on themselves and their child but also on medical staff and hospitals, she said.
Dr Eva Orsmond, broadcaster and director of the renowned Orsmond Clinics which specialises in the treatment of diabetes, weight loss and obesity, said: “Women who allow themselves to be overweight or obese when pregnant is criminal and is putting their lives and the life of their baby to be put in danger due to serious health complications when in labour.
"Babies being born to overweight mothers has massive implications for their future health and also places a heavy burn on medical staff and health systems. Research in Ireland by medics has found that one in five pregnant women are overweight or obese which is extremely worrying.
We are losing a generation to obesity. Young Irish women just don’t seem to realise they are affecting the future health of our nation and there is just no excuse for it and as a result is causing pregnancy-related complications.
“Being obese can harm a woman’s fertility and can also affect the outcome of IVF treatment. Other complications include the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and recurrent miscarriage, high blood pressure and signs of damage to another organ system often the kidneys (preeclampsia).
“There is also a threat of cardiac dysfunction, sleep apnea, difficult delivery and the need for a caesarean section.
“Another problem associated with being overweight when pregnant is gestational diabetes placing an additional cause for concern for the mother and baby when it doesn’t need to be that way.
“Gestational diabetes develops in women during pregnancy because the mother’s body is not able to produce enough insulin. Insulin is a hormone that enables the body to break down sugar (glucose) to be used as energy.
Pregnant women need to work with your health care provider or a registered dietitian to maintain a healthy diet and avoid excessive weight gain. During pregnancy, women will need more folic acid, calcium, iron and other essential nutrients.
Dr Orsmond also pointed out that the associated health problems for a baby result in them being significantly larger than the average, having more body fat than normal, which increases the risk of metabolic syndrome and childhood obesity.
“The issue of what you have as a result is having a child overgrown at birth or passive obesity as they have been overfed while in the womb before they even start feeding for themselves.
An obese baby is more likely to become an obese child to becoming an obese adult and is an accumulation of disadvantage. Being overweight or obese makes it harder to detect health defects with ultrasound. A lot of this is caused by people, needing to simply overhaul their lifestyle, eating habits, being overweight and lack of exercise.
Professor Fionnuala McAuliffe chair of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at University College Dublin also highlighted the complications of being overweight when pregnant.
“Pregnancy is a very unique time. It’s the only time in the life course that you have two patients in one. It’s the only time in the life course where they have regular visits with their health care professionals on a monthly basis.
“It’s very well established now that the environment in the womb is crucial for lifelong health because so many metabolic processes are set in the womb and the baby’s growth is set in the womb.
“That time before pregnancy and during pregnancy is critical for individuals to ensure that they (mother and baby) are on a good path for health in later life.”