Obesity and ethnicity linked to pregnancy problems

Wednesday 16 January 2013

Obesity and ethnicity linked to pregnancy problems

Ethnic background has an impact on whether obese women develop complications during pregnancy, with black women being most at risk, according to research from Guy’s and St Thomas’.

The study found that obesity is most likely to affect black women, with 24% having a body mass index (BMI) of over 30, compared to 9% of women who identified as being white.

42% of obese black women went on to have problems with gestational diabetes, a type of diabetes that affects women during pregnancy, compared to 20% of obese white women.

On average, 1 in 6 women in England are obese at the start of pregnancy. This could lead to problems such as diabetes, heavy bleeding after delivery, large baby size, and the need for a caesarean section.

The researchers estimate that obesity is responsible for 1 in 3 cases of gestational diabetes and 1 in 6 caesarean sections.

Dr Eugene Oteng-Ntim, Head of Obstetrics at Guy’s and St Thomas’, who led the research, said: “South London is very culturally diverse, so this study is particularly relevant to our community. If we can reduce levels of obesity in the local population, we can prevent a large proportion of the associated complications during pregnancy.

“We have several initiatives that aim to do just that, by encouraging a healthy and active lifestyle.”

Guy’s and St Thomas’ is currently running several research studies to find out whether diet and/or exercise can help to reduce problems during pregnancy and birth, as well as in the long term; see www.medscinet.net/upbeat.

The study looked at 23,668 women who gave birth at Guy’s and St Thomas’ between 2004 and 2008 and is published in journal PLOS ONE.

Last updated: January 2013

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