Maternal Obesity Vs. Birth defects
Women who are
obese when they
conceive are more likely to have babies with
birth defects than are mothers of normal
weight, a US study suggests. (The study
was published in the August issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent
Medicine). Researchers interviewed 10,249 American women whose babies were born
with birth defects between 1997 and 2002. The women were contacted between six
weeks and two years after the baby's birth and asked their height and weight
before pregnancy, along with other demographic and medical information. They
were compared to 4065 women who had babies without birth defects during the same
time period. For many types of birth defects, including spina bifida, heart,
limb and genital defects, mothers were between 1.3 and 2.1-fold more likely to
have been obese.
Mothers of babies with the following seven of 16 birth defects were more likely
to be obese than mothers of infants without birth defects:
Spina bifida, a condition that occurs when part of the spinal cord is
uncovered, causing incontinence and problems with mobility.
Anorectal atresia, malformation of the anal opening.
Hypospadias, which occurs when the urethra opens on the underside
instead of the end of the penis
Limb reduction defects, such as small or missing toes, fingers, arms or
Diaphragmatic hernia, or an opening in the diaphragm that allows
abdominal organs to move into the chest cavity and may cause lungs to be
Omphalocele, in which the intestines or other abdominal organs protrude
out through the navel.
The researchers added "The reasons for an association between maternal
obesity and a spectrum of structural birth defects are unknown. Both animal
studies and human studies provide substantial evidence that alterations in
glycemic control are responsible for an increased risk of a range of structural
birth defects among women who have diabetes prior to becoming pregnant. Thus, a
similar mechanism to that occurring in women with
diabetes may be responsible
for the associations observed between maternal obesity and specific categories
of birth defects."
Preventing Birth Defects
Women who have conditions like obesity should talk to their health care
provider about measures to take if they are considering
pregnancy, or if they
discover that they are pregnant. Sometimes better medication or a different
dosage is recommended for treating the condition in pregnancy.
Fine-tune your diet:
Eat well and limit junk food, since it offers
little more than empty calories.
Skip sushi, raw oysters, and soft cheeses, to
name a few.
Start taking a prenatal vitamin-mineral
Don't diet while you're pregnant.
Eat small meals every four hours.
Treat yourself to something sweet on occasion.
We would advise women who are obese to try to maintain a healthy weight, engage
exercise and follow a healthy daily
diet. You should gain between 15
and 25 pounds by the end of your pregnancy, at a rate of approximately 2 to 3
pounds a month, primarily in your
second and third trimesters. (Experts advise
women with a healthy BMI — 18.5 to 24.9 — to gain between 25 and 35 pounds.)
It's normal, however, not to gain any weight at all during the first trimester,
when morning sickness is most pronounced.