THE number of grossly overweight pregnant women at WA’s maternity hospital has risen 44 per cent in six years.
Figures obtained by The Sunday Times show the number of women at King Edward Memorial Hospital with a body mass index of 35 or above make up 19 per cent of patients, up from 13 per cent in 2007.
A BMI of 30 or above is considered obese, while a BMI of between 35 and 40 is “class two” obesity.
Australian Medical Association WA vice-president Michael Gannon said obesity of pregnant women was an area of significant strain on the capacity of hospitals to care for people.
“As a rule, obese women are more likely to have troubles conceiving; they have a slightly increased rate of miscarriage; they are more likely to have pregnancies complicated by gestational diabetes,” he said.
“They are more likely to have pregnancies complicated by pre-eclampsia, more likely to require blood pressure medication in pregnancy; they are more likely to need caesarean sections.
“They are more likely to have haemorrhages after delivery and they are more likely to have stillbirths, so they present challenges the whole way.
“They present challenges in terms of clinical assessment so they need more ultrasound scans; there is an enormous amount of morbidity and it’s an enormous strain on the hospital system.”
Dr Gannon, who is an obstetrician, said caring for a morbidly obese woman, with a BMI of more than 40, would be especially difficult.
Sebely Pal, a Curtin University childhood obesity and nutrition expert, said the nutrition a baby received before birth could affect health in later life.
“Basically if a child is exposed to alcohol, or smoking, or high-density fat food, these environments that the child has been in during the past nine months will have a bearing on his profile, his physical health from birth onwards,” Associate Prof Pal said.
“The child may be predisposed to high cholesterol, high blood glucose, diabetes, at an earlier age.”
It was important women who wanted to become pregnant started at a healthy weight and 15kg was the absolute maximum women should gain during pregnancy.
“They shouldn’t be overweight and obese to start with because you are exposing your child to complications and yourself to complications as well,” she said. “Usually a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet can control these risk factors.
“Most pregnant women think they can eat for two and that’s a misconception.
“You only need a few extra 100 calories by the time you are even at the six-month point to sustain the child.” – See more at: http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/western-australia/sharp-increase-in-obesity-among-mums/story-fnhocxo3-1226724448696#sthash.3z0d0FYs.dpuf