Dealing With Overweight And Obesity During Pregnancy

Overweight and obesity can cause some complications during pregnancy regardless of our previous condition.

The effects that overweight and obesity have on our organism are well known. During pregnancy, when our health not only affects us but also our future baby, being overweight can put us at risk for further complications.

In our blog we have already talked about some habits associated with overweight and obesity, but not all are related to lack of physical activity or poor nutrition. To gain weight you have to eat more calories than you burn and therefore there is a direct relationship between diet, physical activity and obesity. But there are also genetic, hormonal, and behavioral risk factors.

What do we mean by overweight or obesity?

Overweight and obesity are defined as the excessive accumulation of body fat. As we mentioned, there are several factors associated with its development, but the main one is an imbalance between the calories ingested and the calories burned.

The body mass index (BMI) is the most used reference to know if we are within normal weight, above or below the recommended.

To do this calculation, we divide a person’s weight in kilos by the square of his size in meters (kg/m2). The WHO, using this reference, tells us that:

  • Overweight (not obese), if BMI is between 25 to 29.9
  • Obesity class 1 (low risk), if the BMI is between 30 to 34.9
  • Class 2 obesity (moderate risk), if BMI is between 35 to 39.9
  • Class 3 obesity (high risk), if the BMI is equal to or greater than 40

The main difference between overweight and obesity is the volume of body fat.

Obesity can cause multiple health problems

Obesity poses a risk to our health that can lead to different complications:

  • Diabetes or high blood glucose (sugar).
  • Hypertension.
  • High blood cholesterol and triglycerides.
  • Heart attacks due to heart failure, coronary heart disease and stroke.
  • Bone and joint problems, increased weight will put more pressure on bones and joints.
  • Sleep apnea, which can cause fatigue or daytime sleepiness, problems at work, and poor attention.
  • Liver problems and gallstones.

What about during pregnancy?

During the nine months of pregnancy, in most cases, being overweight or obese can pose an added risk to a stage that requires special attention.

As we always recommend, the first thing we should do is consult our doctor so that he can inform us and advise us on what is most convenient in this situation.

These are some of the complications that obesity could cause during pregnancy:

  • Increased risk of miscarriage and stillbirth.
  • Possibility of developing gestational diabetes.
  • Possibility of suffering from pre-eclampsia, which is a complication of pregnancy similar to high blood pressure which also affects the kidneys.
  • Cardiac dysfunction.
  • Sleep apnea.
  • Difficulty in vaginal delivery.

The need for a caesarean section and the risk of complications, such as wound infections. 

Pregnancy and obesity, risks for the baby 

In addition, as we said at the beginning of the article, we must bear in mind that obesity during pregnancy can cause problems for our baby: 

  • Risk of fetal macrosomia. This means that the baby is bigger than the average, and can develop problems derived from this fact such as childhood obesity or metabolic syndrome. 
  • Increased risk of malformations: heart disease, cleft lip, defects in the closure of the abdominal wall, reduction of limbs, hydrocephalus and spina bifida. 

Obesity and diabetes 

Overweight and obesity are two of the major known risk factors for the development of type 2 diabetes.  In addition, during pregnancy, obesity also increases the risk of developing gestational diabetes.  This type of diabetes occurs when the mother is not able to produce or use the necessary insulin, and usually disappears once the pregnancy is over.

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