Maternity units need bigger beds for obese mums
One-in-five pregnant women overweight
BIGGER beds, chairs, operating theatres and even toilets are needed in the country's maternity units to cope with a growing numbers of obese mothers-to-be.
A new study reveals that nearly one in five pregnant women is now obese but many maternity units are struggling to cope with their needs.
Being very overweight during pregnancy is linked to risks for both mother and baby and increases the chances of miscarriage, diabetes, high blood pressure, Caesarean section and blood clots.
Maternity units also need to be equipped to cope with their physical needs and be installed with special toilets, extra wide chairs, bigger examination couches, larger ward beds and trolleys.
However, the study found just one-third have operating theatre tables or delivery beds that are large or suitable enough for obese women.
Some of the units are also not screening enough women for gestational diabetes, the form of the condition which leaves expectant mothers with high blood glucose levels.
If gestational diabetes is not detected and controlled, it can increase the risk of birth complications.
The mother's weight also increases the risk of a baby being born large for their age, which puts them in danger of becoming obese later in life.
The picture emerged from the findings of researchers at the UCD Centre for Human Reproduction, which is linked to the Coombe hospital in Dublin.
They surveyed 20 units on their services, equipment and facilities for obese women.
The found the majority of units were calculating the body mass index in pregnancy but not all were screening women for gestational diabetes.
A very small number were not using medication to prevent the formation of blood clots for women undergoing Caesarean section.
Overall, hospitals that reported back said the prevalence of maternal obesity ranged from 10pc to 30pc -- but averaged 19pc.
All but one of the units reported increasing levels of obesity but only three had clinical guidelines for obesity and pregnancy and only one had patient leaflets.
Few of the units reported using step-on or sit-down scales up to 300kgs while one did not have the large cuffs needed to take a blood pressure reading.
Just one-third had extra wide wheelchairs, while a mere three had an extra wide chair in clinical areas. Few had wide couches and just two of the units had large beds to make the stay more comfortable for the women.
Less than half the units provided bigger delivery beds and and a similar number had extra wide operating theatre.
The authors, who included obstetrician Dr Michael Turner, said the findings showed that screening for gestational diabetes was selective and not universal.
They pointed out that the recommendation is that women of childbearing age who are obese should receive information and advice about the risk of obesity during pregnancy and childbirth and be supported to lose weight before conception.