Obesity afflicts men and women of all ages across the United States and it is on the rise. Among women aged 20 to 39, more than half are overweight and nearly a third are obese, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
Obese women face increased risk of infertility and problems during pregnancy, including hypertension, gestational diabetes and thromboembolic events and are more likely to need a cesarean section. One French study found that overweight women had higher prenatal medical costs, and spent more time in the hospital recovering from childbirth.
In addition, the babies of obese mothers are more likely to be admitted to neonatal intensive care units. They also have a higher incidence of neural tube defects. "The literature suggests that compared to normal weight women, women whose body mass index (BMI) is greater than or equal to 30 have approximately double the risk of having an affected child," according to the Public Affairs Committee. The increased risk cannot be explained by folic acid intake, or by maternal diabetes.
The relationship between obesity and other birth defects remains unclear, according to the paper, because limited data is available, though some studies suggest a correlation.
"The Public Affairs Committee views obesity as a pregnancy risk factor and supports the public health initiatives identified by the FDA and the research initiatives identified by the NIH," the Com
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