Being overweight or obese during pregnancy increases risk of birth defects, study finds

The risk of babies being born with major birth defects increases, the more overweight or obese a mother is, according to a Swedish study.

The authors of the research say their findings “underline the importance of having a maternal BMI in the normal range before pregnancy” and that efforts should be made to encourage women of reproductive age to adopt a healthy lifestyle and obtain a normal body weight before conception.

Previous studies have already established that maternal obesity is a risk factor for congenital malformations, but Martina Persson (Karolinska Institute, Stocklhom) and colleagues wanted to investigate whether overweight was also a risk factor and whether that risk rose with increasing BMI.

The team analyzed medical birth records made between 2001 and 2014 for more than 1.2 million births in Sweden. The records contained information on pregnancy characteristics, along with any cases of major congenital malformation and a number of organ-specific malformations that were diagnosed during infants’ first year of life.

As reported in the British Medical Journal, about 3.5% of the babies had a major congenital malformation, the most common being heart defect, followed by defects of the genitals, limbs, urinary system, digestive system and nervous system.

Compared normal weight (BMI 18.5 to 24) mothers, the risk for any major congenital malformation when mothers were overweight (25 to 29) was 3.5%; for class I maternal obesity (BMI 30 to 34) the risk was 3.8% risk; for class II (35 to 39) it was 4.2% and for class III (40 or more) it was 4.7%.

The risk for heart defects, nervous system malformations and limb defects also rose progressively as BMI increased from overweight to class III obesity and maternal obesity was associated with an increase in genital and digestive system malformations.

Jacque Gerrard, director for England at the Royal College of Midwives, says healthcare professionals should be involved in informing women and their families about the risks: “In particular, midwives are ideally placed to support and advise women about healthy eating and weight gain during pregnancy.”

Gerrard also warns that greater priority needs to be placed on prevention interventions such as providing women with support and evidence-based information about the importance of healthy eating before and during pregnancy, as well as the benefits of taking appropriate exercise.

Sally Robertson

Written by

Sally Robertson

Sally has a Bachelor's Degree in Biomedical Sciences (B.Sc.). She is a specialist in reviewing and summarising the latest findings across all areas of medicine covered in major, high-impact, world-leading international medical journals, international press conferences and bulletins from governmental agencies and regulatory bodies. At News-Medical, Sally generates daily news features, life science articles and interview coverage.

Citations

Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

  • APA

    Robertson, Sally. (2019, June 19). Being overweight or obese during pregnancy increases risk of birth defects, study finds. News-Medical. Retrieved on July 11, 2020 from https://www.news-medical.net/news/20170615/Being-overweight-or-obese-during-pregnancy-increases-risk-of-birth-defects-study-finds.aspx.

  • MLA

    Robertson, Sally. "Being overweight or obese during pregnancy increases risk of birth defects, study finds". News-Medical. 11 July 2020. <https://www.news-medical.net/news/20170615/Being-overweight-or-obese-during-pregnancy-increases-risk-of-birth-defects-study-finds.aspx>.

  • Chicago

    Robertson, Sally. "Being overweight or obese during pregnancy increases risk of birth defects, study finds". News-Medical. https://www.news-medical.net/news/20170615/Being-overweight-or-obese-during-pregnancy-increases-risk-of-birth-defects-study-finds.aspx. (accessed July 11, 2020).

  • Harvard

    Robertson, Sally. 2019. Being overweight or obese during pregnancy increases risk of birth defects, study finds. News-Medical, viewed 11 July 2020, https://www.news-medical.net/news/20170615/Being-overweight-or-obese-during-pregnancy-increases-risk-of-birth-defects-study-finds.aspx.

Comments

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
You might also like... ×
New technology can sense the presence of toxic metals in the water supply