According to statistics in the United States, 22 per cent of women giving birth are obese before they get pregnant. Many women wonder why this is such a big deal. After all, it is normal to gain some weight during pregnancy, right? It turns out that this sentiment is only partially true.
Obesity has been shown to adversely affect fertility, pregnancy, labour and delivery, postpartum recovery, and even the baby’s health. In fact, conceiving a baby is often more difficult for obese women because ovulation is often disrupted by obesity, typically in the form of polycystic ovary syndrome.
If an obese woman becomes pregnant, her risk of hypertension, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, labour interventions, long labour, miscarriage, and ultrasound complications are all increased. Obesity has also been linked to macrosomia, which is having a baby that is excessively big. Macrosomia increases the likelihood of a C-section, which is more dangerous than natural delivery.
After pregnancy, the risks don’t stop. Obese mothers are more likely to haemorrhage and it also becomes more difficult to lose the baby weight.
A mother’s obesity also directly affects the baby in surprising ways. Studies have shown that obesity in the mother actually influences the child’s propensity toward obesity by rewiring how the baby’s brain works. This happens because the foetus basically swims in leptin and insulin, hormones that control weight.
Research has also shown that babies born to mothers who lost weight before conceiving had a lower likelihood of being obese themselves.
So, what’s a woman to do? First of all, if you are obese and want to have a baby, now is the time to lose weight. Do it for your own sake as well as for the health of your baby. This is a great time to discuss potential weight loss with your doctor and learn about living a healthier lifestyle.
Shifting toward a healthier way of life isn’t as hard as you might think. Consulting your scale to keep an eye on your weight is a good start, followed by simple dietary changes. For example, start steering away from sugary beverages and alcohol. Take the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible. Small changes like that can add up to a lot of weight loss.
Be realistic, but remember that the healthier your body is before pregnancy, the easier it will be – and the healthier both you and your baby will be.