Many of us are well aware of the health risks associated with obesity. Being obese can be likened to waving a red flag in front of a bull – you’re bound to face consequences sooner or later. When it comes to pregnancy, gestational obesity can have even more serious effects on both the mother and the baby’s health.
1: Obesity’s Impact on Reproduction: Obesity contributes to the increasing prevalence of reproductive-related issues, including infertility, reproductive endocrine disorders, and various cancers affecting the breast, cervix, uterus, and ovaries.
2: How Obesity Affects Fertility: Obesity significantly reduces a woman’s chances of conceiving naturally due to the abnormal hormonal levels caused by excess adipose tissue. It also diminishes the success rates of in vitro fertilization (IVF). Even if a woman’s embryos are successfully fertilized in a lab, she is likely to encounter fertility challenges after implantation in the womb.
3: The Role of BMI in Fertility: Maintaining a normal Body Mass Index (BMI) is a prerequisite for successful fertility treatment. BMI is calculated by dividing pre-conception weight in kilograms by height in meters squared. A normal BMI falls within the range of 20 to 25. A BMI below 20 is considered underweight, while a BMI above 25 is categorized as overweight. A BMI of 30 and above indicates obesity.
Many experts believe that women with a BMI over 35 have lower success rates compared to those with a healthier weight. Obesity poses significant obstacles to successful embryo implantation in these women.
4: Pregnancy Complications Due to Obesity: Obesity during pregnancy increases the risk of several complications:
- Gestational Diabetes: This condition interferes with sugar absorption, potentially leading to excessive fetal weight gain.
- Pre-eclampsia: Characterized by elevated blood pressure and proteinuria, the risk is four to five times higher among obese pregnant women.
- Sleep Apnea: Pregnant obese women may experience breathing interruptions during sleep, which can impact the fetus.
- Still-born Deliveries and Materno-fetal Deaths: Obesity increases the risk of stillbirth, with a two to three-fold higher risk among obese expectant mothers.
- Reduced Chances of Natural Pregnancy and Multiple Complications: Overweight pregnant women face lower odds of natural conception and a higher likelihood of miscarriages and fetal anomalies.
- Extended Hospitalization: Obese women require longer hospital stays after childbirth, and their babies have a greater chance of being admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
- Post-delivery Infections: Obesity is linked to slower labor, higher rates of caesarean sections, and associated risks like blood clots and wound infections.
- Difficult C-sections: The challenges include positioning, administering epidural injections, maintaining airways, and increased ICU admissions after the operation.
5: Impact on the Baby: Babies born to obese mothers are at a heightened risk of developing macrosomia, a condition characterized by excessive fetal weight gain, which can lead to complications during labor and birth, such as shoulder dystocia.
Furthermore, babies born to obese mothers are more susceptible to severe neural tube anomalies, including spina bifida and anencephaly, due to lower levels of folic acid during the early stages of pregnancy. Unfortunately, these defects are often difficult to detect via ultrasound due to the presence of excess fat.
Additionally, research suggests that children born to obese mothers are more likely to develop obesity themselves by the age of four.
To all women who are obese or planning to become pregnant, as well as those who are overweight or expecting, it’s crucial to be aware of the risks associated with obesity during pregnancy. Consider taking proactive steps to address these concerns for a healthier and safer pregnancy journey. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Prioritize your well-being and that of your future child.