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Does Obesity Threaten a Healthy Pregnancy?

Monitoring pregnancy

Being pregnant and being obese can adversely affect you and your baby. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help ensure a safe delivery for both of you.

Know the Risks of Obesity

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, obesity (having a body mass index or BMI of 30 or more) puts you at increased risk of several pregnancy-related complications, including:

  • Gestational diabetes
  • Urinary tract and postpartum infections
  • Protein in the urine and high blood pressure after 20 weeks of pregnancy (preeclampsia)
  • Prematurity or stillbirth
  • Problems with labor
  • C-sections and an increased risk of post-operative complications

In addition to threats to your own health, obesity carries risks for your baby, most notably an increased risk of having a birth defect, such as a heart condition, a problem with the brain or spinal cord (neural tube defect), and an abnormal buildup of fluid in the brain.

Obese women also are more likely to deliver a baby who is slightly larger than normal, and studies have shown that these babies have a greater risk of childhood obesity.

Steps to a Healthy Pregnancy

Your doctor will closely monitor your pregnancy and work with you to safeguard your health and that of your developing baby.

Some things you may expect:

  • Testing for gestational diabetes earlier than women of normal weight.
  • More frequent prenatal visits as your pregnancy progresses.
  • Nutrition counseling to improve your eating habits and avoid excessive weight gain.
  • A consultation for anesthesia, should you need it for labor or to prepare for the likelihood of a C-section.

Although obesity during pregnancy has risks, they can be minimized if you work with your healthcare provider and prepare for issues that we know are likely to develop. Your pregnancy can be an ideal time for you to begin to address your weight.

By eating properly during your pregnancy and being active, you can set the stage for weight loss after your baby is born and before you attempt another pregnancy.

author name

Jennifer S. Ammons, MD

Jennifer S. Ammons, MD, FAAP, is a pediatrician with Roseville Pediatrics. Dr. Ammons is a graduate of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and completed her residency at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. Her special areas of interest include child safety, infectious diseases, and immunizations.

Call: 717-569-6481

About LG Health Hub

The LG Health Hub features breaking medical news and straightforward advice to help individuals of all ages make healthy choices and reach their wellness goals. The blog puts articles by trusted Lancaster General Health clinical experts, good 'n healthy recipes, videos, patient stories, and health risk assessments at your fingertips.


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