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Updated: April 7, 2011 13:55 IST

Risk of baby death higher in obese women: study

PTI
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The cartoon depicts a obese woman.
The Hindu The cartoon depicts a obese woman.

Obese women are twice as likely to lose their baby in the womb or in their first year of life than those with normal weight, a new study has claimed.

Researchers at the Newcastle University who examined over 40,000 pregnancies at maternity units in the U.K. found that the risk of baby death was double among obese women.

They found that those with a body mass index (BMI) of more than 30 were 1.6 per cent more like to lose their baby compared to 0.9 per cent in women who have normal weight, or a BMI between 18.5 and 24.5, the Daily Mail reported.

This means infant mortality rates for babies born to obese women were on average 16 in 1,000 babies, while it’s nine per 1,000 for mothers of a healthy weight, said the researchers.

The findings suggested that it was important for women to achieve a healthy weight before getting pregnant to give their babies the best chance, they stressed but warned against dieting during pregnancy.

Dr Ruth Bell, who led the three year study, said: “The results we found were not totally unexpected as there have been similar studies done in the past that have arrived at the same conclusion.

“However I want to reassure mothers that it is uncommon for foetal and infant deaths -- most women deliver healthy babies despite what weight they are.

“When a woman is pregnant it is not the right time for her to go on a diet as it is most important that she eats healthily, ensuring her baby gets all the essential nutrients it needs.

“What is important, however, is that women are helped and supported to achieve a healthy weight before they become pregnant or after the baby is born, as this will give the baby the best start to life.”

For the study, the researchers collected information during mothers’ antenatal visits between 2003 and 2005 and the optimum weight for a mum-to-be was reported at being a BMI of 23.

The research suggested a reason for the increased risk of baby deaths in obese women was due to a higher number of cases of pre-eclampsia, a serious pregnancy complication that is diagnosed by high blood pressure and protein in the urine.

“When a woman is obese there is an increased risk of high blood pressure or diabetes developing during pregnancy.

As a result it is important that the mother and baby are regularly monitored,” Dr Bell added.

The researchers adjusted their results to take account of the mothers’ age, ethnicity, smoking status, socio-economic status, and for the birth weight and gestational age of the babies.

Pregnancies where the baby had a congenital problem, of where the mother had a history of diabetes were excluded.

The new findings were published in the medical journal Human Reproduction.

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