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New health risks for overweight pregnant women found

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Health risks during pregnancy the same for overweight women and obesity

Women who are just a little overweight and with blood sugar levels that are higher than normal could be putting their baby’s future health at risk from chances of obesity. A new study also finds unknown new health risks for moms too, from being just a little overweight, or with higher than normal blood sugar levels.

Overweight and high blood sugars during pregnancy should be addressed

Researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine explain in a news release that women with slightly higher blood sugars and who are slightly overweight haven’t been considered at risk for bad pregnancy outcomes, with focus being on obese women who develop gestational diabetes.

Boyd Metzger, M.D., a professor of medicine-endocrinology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital said in a news release “We need to address the combination of overweight and blood sugar of these women as urgently as we do for women who are obese or have gestational diabetes."

The study, published in the journal Diabetes Care, is from the Hyperglycemia Adverse Pregnancy Outcome (HAPO) Study that included over 23,000 women from nine countries.

Six percent of the pregnant women had higher than normal glucose levels and were overweight; 16 percent were obese and 13.7 percent had gestational (pregnancy induced) diabetes.

The risk for overweight women and delivery is that they’re too close to having the same risks for pregnant women who are obese, meaning higher risk for diabetes and C-section from having larger babies.

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The study found babies weigh 340 grams more when mothers are obese and have gestational diabetes, compared to babies whose moms’ are normal weight; with normal blood sugar levels. Normal weight women with diabetes are also likely to have bigger babies.

Obese mothers without diabetes during pregnancy have babies who weigh174 grams more.

When a woman is overweight, with slightly higher blood sugar levels, their babies weigh 214 grams more, which is approximately 7.5 ounces.

Having a larger baby is from fat accumulation, the researchers explain. Having a bigger baby can necessitate C-section because of the chances that the baby could be traumatized during vaginal delivery. Newborns can also experience higher insulin levels and low blood sugars that can lead to later obesity and diabetes.

Metzger suggests all women should have an insurance reimbursed nutritional consult with a dietician during their first prenatal visit. The study found pregnant women and their babies can be at risk for health problems from being overweight or if their blood sugars are higher than normal. The authors concluded, "Their combination has a greater impact than either one alone."

Diabetes Care
"The Hyperglycemia and Adverse Pregnancy Outcome Study Associations of GDM and obesity with pregnancy outcomes"
Patrick M. Catalano, MD et al.
April, 2010
doi: 10.2337/dc11-1790

Image credit: Morguefile