Overweight pregnant women SHOULD be put on a diet say doctors as effects of obesity on childbirth are revealed
02:38 GMT, 19 May 2012
At a time when the U.S. – like most of the West – is gripped by an epidemic of obesity, the increasing number of overweight people is having an impact on all areas of healthcare.
One of the most complex problems thrown up by the epidemic is how obese women can look after themselves if they become pregnant.
If an expectant mother is carrying too many excess pounds, it can create serious complications both for her and for her baby.
And a new review of the evidence on how to tackle the issue reveals, perhaps unsurprisingly, that going on a diet is the best way for pregnant women to stay in shape, according to ABC News.
Pregnant: Scientists have suggested that more women should be encouraged to diet to control their weight ahead of childbirth
The problem is a particularly thorny one because, of course, all women should expect to put on a significant amount of weight during pregnancy.
But while the average woman can safely put on around 30lb, obese women are advised to gain no more than around 15lb.
Obese pregnant women are likely to face serious problems right from the very start of their term – as the heavier you are, the less likely you are to know you are pregnant.
Dr Marjorie Greenfield, a senior gynaecologist at a Cleveland hospital, told ABC that much of the equipment used to monitor pregnancy – such as ultrasound machines – works less well on obese women.
'It's harder to provide excellent care to someone who's obese because a lot of things we do are not as accurate,' she said.
And overweight women are more likely to be affected by gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia and premature birth.
The obesity epidemic has also had an impact on hospitals, as they are forced to introduce larger and stronger delivery tables suitable for severely overweight women.
Overweight: Obesity can cause a number of complications in pregnant women
But hope is on the horizon, according to a group of scientists – and the answer is a very simple one.
The researchers, hailing from around the world, reviewed 44 studies on tackling obesity among pregnant women, and concluded that dieting is the best way to control the problem.
Their article, published in the British Medical Journal this month, compared the efficacy of diet with that of physical exercise.
They found that the average woman gained over 8lb less than they would be expected to if they were able to stick to a rigorous diet.
They concluded, therefore, that 'dietary intervention is effective, safe, and potentially cost-effective', and recommended that it should become a regular part of pre-natal care.
The researchers also insisted that neither dieting nor exercise was likely to have any adverse effect on either the mother or the baby – contrary to some popular misconceptions.