Obesity and pregnancy can be more complicated than you think.


As of 2019, West Virginia has one of the highest rates of obesity among adults in the U.S., at 39.5 percent—that means a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater, with a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 considered healthy.

It is very important for the women of our great state to realize that obesity is a particular risk for women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. If you’re in that situation, your certified nurse–midwife or your OB/GYN physician can help you decrease your risk and have the healthiest pregnancy and delivery possible.

Listed below are some risk factors that can be associated with obesity and pregnancy for you and your baby.

Risk factors that can affect your health

Gestational Diabetes This is diabetes that is diagnosed during your pregnancy. Testing will be done at your first prenatal visit and again at 28 weeks. Having GD can increase your risk of having a cesarean delivery, and it can increase the risk of developing diabetes in the future for both you and your children.

Preeclampsia This is high blood pressure that can occur during or after
your pregnancy. It is a very serious illness that can affect your entire body and even cause your liver and kidneys to fail. It can also lead to seizures and, in rare cases, a stroke. Severe cases require emergency treatment to avoid these complications and an early delivery of your baby.

Sleep apnea This condition causes short periods without breathing in your sleep. During pregnancy, sleep apnea can cause fatigue, but can also place you at increased risk for high blood pressure, preeclampsia, and even heart and lung disorders.

Risk factors that can affect your baby’s health

Miscarriage There is an increased risk of miscarriage in overweight women compared with women of healthy weight.

Birth defects Babies born to obese mothers can be at risk themselves for
having babies who have birth defects such as heart defects or neural tube defects.

Problems with diagnostic testing Too much body fat can make fully seeing
your baby on an ultrasound very difficult. It can also be difficult to trace your baby’s heartbeat while you are in labor.

Macrosomia This term means your baby is bigger than normal, and it can increase the chance of your baby being injured during birth. Macrosomia can also increase your risk of having a cesarean delivery. Babies who are born with too much body fat are at an increased risk for being obese later in life.

Preterm birth Obese mothers are at risk for having a preterm infant, because they may need to be induced for a medical reason such as preeclampsia. Babies born before 39 weeks are not as fully developed and may have an increased risk for shortterm and long-term health problems.

Stillbirth The higher your BMI, the great your risk for having a stillborn baby.

As you can see, obesity and pregnancy can be very difficult for both you and your baby both during and after pregnancy.

Obesity does not mean that you can’t have children. One of the ways you can help yourself is to seek preconception counseling from a certified nurse–midwife or an OB/GYN physician before you decide to become pregnant. During this time, they can discuss with you how to eat healthy and help you lose weight safely.

Losing even a small amount of weight prior to becoming pregnant can reduce your risk factors and help pave the way to a healthier pregnancy for you and your baby. Your nurse–midwife or OB/GYN can help you with a management plan tailored to your specific needs that might include paying careful attention to your weight gain, diet, exercise, routine prenatal care to monitor for complications, and special considerations for your labor and delivery experience.

image courtesy of Family Care

What is a nurse–midwife?

Leila Nichols is a certified nurse–midwife (CNM) with FamilyCare Health
Centers OB/GYN & Birth Center in Charleston. Her training has educated
her in midwifery and nursing. She earned a graduate degree from a midwifery education program that is fully accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME) and passed a national certification exam through the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB).

To maintain their CNM designation, midwives must be recertified every five
years through AMCB and meet specific continuing education requirements. CNMs take care of women from preconception through menopause.

If you are considering pregnancy or just need women’s health services, FamilyCare Health Centers is the place for you. Our group of four certified nurse-midwives and OB/GYN doctors offer deliveries in our beautiful freestanding birth center conveniently located in downtown Charleston and at CAMC Women and Children’s Hospital.

In addition to caring for low-risk women, CNMs are capable of taking care
of high-risk pregnancies alongside their patients’ OB/GYN physicians. For more information on our midwifery or physician services, please call today. 304.345.BABY, familycarebirthcenter.org


posted on May 8, 2020

written by Leila “Lee” Nichols

featured image courtesy of Shutterstock

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