22 August, 2021

Obesity and Pregnancy


Obesity is when your BMI is 30 or higher. To calculate your body mass index, divide your weight in kilograms by your height in meters squared.

BMI Weight status
Below 18.5 Underweight
18.5-24.9 Normal
25.0-29.9 Overweight
30.0 and higher Obesity


High BMI can reduce fertility by inhibiting normal ovulation. Even with regular ovulation, high BMI can reduce fertility significantly. Research has shown that higher the BMI higher are the chances of IVF failure.


Pre-pregnancy weight and BMI helps in determining how much weight you need to gain during pregnancy.

  • Single pregnancy – For BMI of 30 or higher and with one baby, the recommended weight gain is about 5 to 9 kilograms.
  • Multiple pregnancy – For BMI of 30 or higher and with twins or multiples, the recommended weight gain is about 11 to 19 kilograms.

For a BMI of 40 or higher, gaining less than the recommended amount or losing weight during pregnancy might lower the risk of a C-section or having a baby significantly larger than average. However, this might also increase the risk of having a small for gestational age baby.


Obesity during pregnancy lead to risk of several serious health problems:

  • Gestational hypertension – High blood pressure during the second half of pregnancy is called gestational hypertension. It can lead to serious complications.
  • Preeclampsia – Preeclampsia is a serious form of gestational hypertension that usually happens in the second half of pregnancy or soon after childbirth. This can lead to Kidney or Liver Failure. Rarely it can lead to, seizures, heart attack, and stroke can happen. It can also lead to problems with the placenta and growth problems for the fetus.
  • Gestational diabetes – High levels of blood sugar during pregnancy increase the risk of having a very large baby. This also increases the chance of caesarean birth. Gestational diabetes puts you at a higher risk of diabetes mellitus in the future. So do their children.
  • Obstructive sleep apnea – Sleep apnea is when a person stops breathing for short periods during sleep. During pregnancy, sleep apnea can lead to fatigue and increase the risk of high blood pressure, preeclampsia, and heart and lung disorders.


Obesity increases the risk of:

  • Birth defects – Babies might born with birth defects, such as heart defects and neural tube defects (NTDs)
  • Problems with diagnostic tests – having too much body fat can make it difficult to see the baby’s anatomy on an ultrasound exam. Monitoring of baby’s heart rate during labor more difficult.
  • Macrosomia – Baby is larger than normal leading to increased risk of injury during birth. The Baby’s shoulder can get stuck after the head is delivered as they are bigger. Macrosomia also increases the risk of caesarean birth. Babies  with too much body fat are at a greater risk of obesity.
  • Preterm birth – Problems with a woman’s obesity are such as preeclampsia, may lead to a preterm birth for maternal safety. Preterm babies have an increased risk of short-term and long-term health problems.
  • Stillbirth – The higher the BMI, the greater the risk of stillbirth.


Before pregnancy, get a preconception check-up. Losing weight by exercises and diet before pregnancy is good for both you and your baby.

Weight loss can improve your fertility.

Bariatric surgery can be considered for people who are very obese or who have major health problems due to obesity. If you have weight loss surgery, you should delay getting pregnant for 1-2 years after surgery, when you will have the most rapid weight loss.


During pregnancy, these precautions can help keep you and your baby healthy:

  • Get early and regular prenatal care. Prenatal care are check-ups during pregnancy. Go to every prenatal care check-up, even if there are no complications. Your Doctor gives you prenatal tests, like a glucose screening test for diabetes and ultrasound for baby’s growth and development.  
  • Talk to your doctor about how much weight to gain during pregnancy. 
  •  Eat healthy foods. Talk to a Dietician to help you plan your meals. It can help you make a healthy eating plan depending on your age, weight, height and physical activity.
  • Don’t diet. Severe forms of dieting can reduce the nutrients your baby needs to grow and develop. 
  • Do something active every day- activities that are safe for you like walking every day. Begin with 5min and gradually increase up to 30min walk every day. Swimming is a good form of exercise for pregnant women. The water supports your weight leading to less likelihood of injuries and muscle strain. 


Obese women have prolong labors than women of normal weight. It can be harder to monitor the baby during the process of labor. So, obesity during pregnancy increases the chances of having a caesarean birth. In case of caesarean birth is needed, the risks of infection, bleeding, and other complications increases for a woman who is obese than for a woman of normal weight.


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