Overweight is described as having a body mass index or BMI of 25 or more. Though a person requires a certain amount of body fat, an excess of it could alter the normal functioning of the body systems and therefore put you at risk of having health problems. During pregnancy, there are many changes that occur in the body and being overweight increases the risk of having complications. Some of the issues with being overweight during pregnancy include gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, difficulties during prenatal examinations, delivery problems, and birth defects.
Gestational diabetes is a condition in which there is increased blood glucose level during pregnancy due to hormonal changes taking place in the body. The ability to properly utilize insulin during pregnancy diminishes resulting in insulin resistance, which leads to high blood glucose levels. This condition usually exhibits mild symptoms and may not be life threatening as the glucose level often goes back to normal after delivery.
Another issue is high blood pressure. Blood pressure usually increases during pregnancy but is well compensated in healthy pregnant women. However, overweight women have higher risks of developing gestational hypertension, a condition in which the blood pressure runs very high during pregnancy. This usually resolves after childbirth. However, it can lead to pre-eclampsia which is a severe condition of having high blood pressure, presence of protein in the urine as well as edema (swollen body parts). This does not only affect the mother, but it can also endanger the life of the baby. Very high blood pressure prevents the baby from acquiring adequate blood and oxygen, and this may lead to stillbirth.
Obese pregnant women are difficult-to-examine patients. The extra body fat limits the visualization of the fetus during ultrasound. The doctor may have a difficulty locating the fetal heart tones, and may miss out potential problems such as breech presentation, abnormal fetal growth, or reduced amniotic fluid.
Being overweight during pregnancy also raises the chance of the pregnant women having a cesarean delivery due to the multiple issues associated with it. Cesarean section is a major surgery, and it involves induction of anesthesia, which is difficult to perform in obese women. The reaction to the anesthesia itself could also threaten the life of the mother as it could drop the blood pressure rapidly. The risks and complications of cesarean section also include infection, increased blood loss, abnormal bowel or bladder function, adjacent organ injuries, or even death. Cesarean delivery also puts the newborns at risk of being born prematurely for having an inaccurate calculation, breathing difficulties, low Apgar scores, fetal injury, or other problems requiring prolonged intensive care.
In addition, being overweight during pregnancy also raises the issue among the newborns potentially becoming obese in their childhood and having birth defects such spinal cord, brain and heart defects.
With all these issues with being overweight during pregnancy, it is important for pregnant women to have prenatal checkups so that their doctors can monitor them and their babies properly, and so that they will be given appropriate instructions regarding proper diet and exercise. They must also be compliant with their doctors’ recommendations to make sure they have a healthy baby and to help them stay fit not only during pregnancy but also after delivery.