Obesity during pregnancy increases the risk of birth defects in the child

Obesity during pregnancy increases the risk of birth defects in the child

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Does an increased weight of mothers affect newborn children?
Obesity and obesity are on the rise worldwide and lead to more and more health problems for affected people. Researchers have now found that obesity in pregnant women increases the likelihood of birth defects in their babies.

The researchers at the Karolinska Institute found that obesity among expectant mothers leads to serious birth defects in their babies. The doctors published the results of their study in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

What health problems can arise?
Nowadays more and more people have problems with their weight. Unfortunately, obesity and obesity are widespread in many countries. The increased weight not only leads to health problems for the people affected, it also negatively affects the babies of obese women, the experts explain. Maternal obesity increases the risk of infants for congenital heart defects, digestive system abnormalities, and malformations of genital organs or limbs.

Doctors analyze data from more than 1.2 million participants
For their study, the researchers looked at the data from more than 1.2 million live births in Sweden between 2001 and 2014. They found some convincing evidence for the link between obesity in pregnancy and birth defects.

A causal relationship could be established
While the increased risk for slightly overweight women was still very low, the progressive increase in risk with increasing overweight made a causal link evident, the researchers say. Regarding the risk of childbirth defects, it is better if women are of normal weight rather than being overweight or even obese, adds author and epidemiologist Martin Neovius. In general, more efforts should be made to encourage women of reproductive age to lead a healthy lifestyle. This way, they could maintain or achieve a normal body weight before pregnancy, the expert says.

It is difficult for many obese people to lose weight
The sliding scale of risk indicates that weight loss from severe obesity to milder obesity can lead to health benefits. However, it is not easy for a person to get from a BMI of 42 to a normal weight, explains author Martin Neovius.

How much was the risk of being overweight and obese?
During the examination it quickly became clear that a total of 43,550 babies (3.5 percent of all births) had large congenital malformations. For mothers in a normal weight range, the risk of defects was 3.4 percent. The risk was 3.5 percent for overweight mothers, and 3.8 percent for obese mothers. With higher categories of obesity, the risk increased to 4.7 percent, the scientists say.

What is the body mass index?
The categories were based on the so-called Body Mass Index (BMI), which shows the ratio of body weight to body size. This defines a healthy weight for a BMI between 18.5 and 24, overweight for a BMI of 25 to 29 and obesity for a BMI of 30 or more.

Why does maternal weight affect the fetus?
The current study shows a causal relationship between an increased risk of birth defects in infants and an increased weight of the mother, say the doctors. The scientists are still trying to understand exactly how the maternal weight affects the fetus. Changes in hormone levels, higher levels of inflammation and less efficient delivery of nutrients via the placenta could play a role, the authors of the study explain.

There are more and more people with obesity and overweight
The increased risk of birth defects was just one of many additional risk factors in the pregnancy of overweight women. Severe obesity increases the risk of many negative effects during pregnancy. Worldwide, obesity is seen as a growing health problem, with the number of women 18 years of age or older with a BMI of over 35 having increased massively in recent years. The value doubled between 2000 and 2010 from 50 million to 100 million people affected, the authors explain. (as)

Author and source information

Video: Birth defects: teratogenic risks (July 2022).


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