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Abnormality risk caused by obesity during pregnancy

Overweight or obese women are at increased risk of poor pregnancy outcomes including congenital abnormalities, new research reveals.

Two studies into the impact of a women's BMI on pregnancy found that obese women are at a higher risk of complications and certain congenital anomalies.

The first, a systematic review of 49 studies, found there was ‘a significant relationship' between weight and a range of risks including caesarean and instrumental deliveries, longer length of hospital stay and neonatal trauma.

Obese women were at double the relative risk of a caesarean delivery, 2.7 times the risk of a longer hospital stay and than three times the risk of infection.

Dr Nicola Heslehurst, a lecturer in research at the University of Teeside's Centre for Food, Physical Activity and Obesity, told delegates at the same conference that the impact of obesity was significant enough to warrant new guidelines on the management of overweight and obese women during pregnancy.

The second study followed the pregnancies of more than 42,000 pregnant women at five maternity units in the north of England, who gave birth to babies between January 2003 and December 2005. All women included in the study were classed as either overweight or obese.

Some 1,098 babies were born with congential anomalies, with cardiovascular anomalies and neural tube defects being among the most common at 456 and 55 births respectively.

Dr Katherine Stothard, a research associate at the University of Newcastle's Institute of Health and Society, told delegates at the European Congress on Obesity that her preliminary data indicated that babies born to overweight or obese pregnant women had an increased risk of congential anomalies.

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