Pregnant women who are obese or overweight have an increased risk of delivering a stillborn baby, a new study suggest.
Researchers looked at 38 studies to better understand the potential risks to an unborn child in relation to its mother’s body mass index. They found even a modest increase in an obese pregnant woman’s weight is linked to an increased risk of fetal death, stillbirth and infant death, CNN reported on its website.
The highest risk was in women with a BMI over 40 (30 is considered obese). These women were two to three times more likely to experience complications. Even women with a BMI over 25 (which is considered overweight) were found to experience increased complications.
“We found weak, but statistically significant increases in risk even within what is considered the normal ranges of BMI,” said the lead researcher.
“For example, the relative risk of stillbirth, perinatal and infant death increased by 20%, 11% and 10% already at a BMI of 25 compared with a BMI of 20; however, the really strong associations were observed among women who were either obese or severely obese who had up to two- to three-fold increases in the risk compared to lean women.”
While the risk is increased for women with higher BMIs, the researcher said, the absolute risk is low – meaning it’s uncommon.
But “it is quite devastating for the parents it happens to,” he said.
“I think at least when you get into the obese or severely obese range there is reason for concern. In addition, overweight and obesity is associated with increased risk of many other pregnancy complications, so when you look at the total picture it’s not trivial.”