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Know how obesity can affect pregnancy?

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By Dr. N Sapna Lulla, Lead Consultant – Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Aster CMI Hospital, Bangalore

Eat for two is a common advice given to every expecting mother. While this suggestion aims to encourage expecting mothers to achieve the optimum weight and ensure complete well-being and nutrition for their child. However, eating for two often leads to more weight gain among pregnant women and increases their risk of being obese.

What is obesity?

Obesity is a complex disorder that leads to the development of excessive fat in your body. It is measured based on one’s Body Mass Index (BMI). Generally, people with BMI between 25 and 29.8 are considered overweight, whereas people with BMI 30 or higher are considered obese.

Obesity is categorized under three levels, indicating rising BMI and health risks. These include –

Category I obesity: BMI of 30–34.9

Category II obesity: BMI of 35–39.9

Category III obesity: BMI of 40 or higher.

How can obesity impact your pregnancy?

Obesity during pregnancy is one of the most common health issues that expecting mothers often face, as it increases the risk of multiple pregnancy complications. Usually, women with an increased Body Mass Index (BMI) experience the following health issues due to obesity –

Gestational hypertension: It is defined as high blood pressure that develops during the second trimester of pregnancy and leads to serious health complications

Pre-eclampsia: This type of severe gestational hypertension develops in the second half of pregnancy or shortly after delivery. Due to this condition, obese women often develop liver and kidney failure and may sometimes experience seizures, heart attacks, and strokes. Other risk issues include the growth of the foetus and problems with the placenta.

Macrosomia:  In this condition, the foetus is larger than usual, which results in birth injuries during the delivery

Gestational diabetes: An increase in blood sugar levels during pregnancy often results in large babies, due to which many mothers also have to undergo caesarean deliveries. Women diagnosed with gestational diabetes are also at risk of developing diabetes mellitus later, which can also be passed to their children. 

Obstructive sleep apnea: In this condition, a person stops breathing briefly while sleeping and during pregnancy; sleep apnea can make women feel more tired and raise their risk of pre-eclampsia, high blood pressure, and heart and lung issues.

Birth defects:  Pregnant women who are obese are likely to give birth to children who have birth defects like neural tube defects and heart defects

Issues with diagnostic procedures:  Excessive body fat can hinder foetal anatomy issues during an ultrasound examination and can make it more challenging to monitor the foetal heart rate during labour.

How can you ensure a healthy pregnancy?

Despite the risks, obese women can have a healthy pregnancy. Using the below-mentioned tips, obese women can stay fit and healthy.

●       Adopt a weight-loss plan and consider exercises like swimming and walking for at least 30 mins

●       Consume a healthy diet and include low-carbohydrate and high-fat protein foods in your diet

●       Restrict your rice intake

●       Avoid sugar and instead intake food and beverages that have a natural sweetness

Lastly, regular consultation with your obstetrician can reduce your risks and can help you achieve your desired pregnancy.

*Dr. N Sapna Lulla is Lead Consultant – Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Aster CMI Hospital, Bangalore

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