How The Obesity Epidemic Affects Pregnant Women

I came across an interesting piece in the Washington Post about an rarely discussed but important subgroup of this country's obesity epidemic: Obese pregnant women. Of the 6 million women in this country who are pregnant at a given time, about half of them are either overweight or obese.

Their obesity puts them at a higher risk for preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and cesarean sections. Even worse, their offspring are more likely to be obese themselves as well as being born prematurely, having birth defects or being stillborn.

The article goes into depth about one obese woman whose pregnancy had been smooth until the 32-week mark when she was diagnosed with preeclampsia. Less than five weeks later, she lost her child soon after experiencing excruciating pains in her abdomen. This woman's story has a happy ending, however. The 30-year-old woman became pregnant 15 months later and is now working with a nutritionist to modify her diet as well as making an effort to be more active.

Because excess weight is a major risk factor for preeclampsia, this young woman had determined her obesity was one thing in her life over which she had control, if she wanted to have a healthier pregnancy and a beautiful little girl.

This subject is a personal for me considering my sister was my office manager for 10 years prior to her becoming pregnant. Being somewhat of an obsessive compulsive like me, she worked through most of her pregnancy. She eventually came down with preeclampsia that resulted in an early delivery.

But, of course, there may have been a simple solution to her problem. A study, published three years ago in the British Medical Journal, clearly showed fish oil consumption was associated with lessening the risk for premature delivery. Moreover, not only do omega-3 fats dramatically reduce complications, but a high quality fish oil does wonders to improve the health of all children.

It also seems prudent to follow a healthier eating plan during pregnancy, based on a woman's unique nutritional type. This should not be confused in any way with a low-calorie diet. These types of diets are not wise for nearly anyone to follow but could be especially harmful for pregnant women.

Washington Post February 22, 2005

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