11 February 2008
Obesity problems begin before conception
Government anti-obesity campaigns should be focussing on women of child-bearing age, say leading clinicians. Presidents of the Royal Society of Medicine's Sections of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Endocrinology & Diabetes and Maternity & the Newborn, believe the government should be funding campaigns to target women of child-bearing age.
Women who are obese are more likely to have difficulty conceiving and once they are pregnant, overweight and obese women and their babies are at a greater risk of a range of health problems. New research published in the latest issue of Obstetric Medicine looked at 3,642 women booking obstetric services at St Thomas' Hospital in London. Women with a BMI (body mass index) over 25 ran a greater risk of diabetes and hypertension during their pregnancy, and a higher risk of preterm rupture of membranes and of their babies being born prematurely. There was also an increased rate of caesarean delivery in both groups. This echoes a similar but much smaller study at King's College Hospital released this week.
Dr Eugene Oteng-Ntim, President of the RSM's Maternity & the Newborn Section and one of the study's authors, commented "Women of reproductive age need to maintain a healthy weight if they want to have a healthy pregnancy and give birth to healthy children. Government obesity campaigns are not paying enough attention to one of the most important groups in the population. Once an obese woman is pregnant, she and her baby already run a greater risk to their health. Obesity problems begin before conception and pregnancy is certainly not the time to start trying to lose weight."
Two other RSM section Presidents are so concerned about the rise in obesity among pregnant women they are running meetings on the issue this month. President of the Obstetrics & Gynaecology Section, Professor Philip Steer, says "We've had warnings on cigarette packets telling us that smoking can harm the unborn baby as well as the mother. But there seems to be little effort made to warn mothers about the risk obesity poses to mother and child. Fewer mothers are smoking and that's to be applauded, but there is a significant rise in obesity in pregnancy and it appears that little is being done by the government to target this group. It strikes me as even more of a lost opportunity when we know that women who eat a healthy diet and are not overweight are more likely to foster healthy eating habits in the children they have."
Dr Anne Dornhorst, President of the Endocrinology & Diabetes Section commented, "It is staggering that this research found that BMI is still not being routinely recorded in women booking for obstetric services. Obesity in pregnancy is continuing to rise and, consequently, diabetes types 1 and 2 are also on the rise. As the CEMACH* report clearly showed, this means an increased risk of perinatal mortality, congenital anomalies and stillbirths. The next CEMACH report will provide us with further hard evidence of the risk factors associated with obesity in pregnancy but we already know more than enough to recognise the importance of targeting health messages at this important group."
All three Presidents are available for comment through the RSM media office.
Obstetric Medicine is published by RSM Press, the publishing arm of the Royal Society of Medicine
Maternal Medicine – Sweet, fat and bad for your heart will be held on Friday 13 February at the Royal Society of Medicine.
Diabetes in the Young will be held on Tuesday 24 Feb at the Royal Society of Medicine.
*CEMACH is the Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health
For further information please contact:
Carmel Turner, Royal Society of Medicine
Tel: 0207 290 2904