Trinity scientists warn Irish women to lose weight to avoid pregnancy difficulties
Obese women have been warned to lose weight before becoming pregnant in order to avoid complications.
A new study by Trinity College has revealed that overweight mums-to-be face increased health risks to both themselves and their babies compared with women within the healthy weight range.
It also revealed that more than one-fifth of expectant Irish mothers are overweight.
Pregnant women with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or higher face a greater risk of pregnancy-related issues such as gestational diabetes, high blood-pressure, pre-eclampsia and depression compared with women within the healthy 18.5 to 25 BMI range.
The study revealed that there are higher levels of caesarean sections among overweight mothers, as well as the heightened risk of surgical infection.
Their babies are also more likely to be born prematurely and to have foetal defects.
Researchers also found that maternal obesity is the biggest factor leading to obesity in children.
Trinity professor and author of the study Cecily Begley called on the Government to introduce programmes to educate mums-to-be on the risks of being obese during pregnancy.
"It is important not to stigmatise women because of their weight," she said.
"We need to provide pre-conceptual health education through national subsidised programmes to support and encourage women with a high BMI to lose weight before they conceive.
"The benefits for them and their babies can be significant."
Prof Michael Turner of the National Clinical Programme in Obstetrics and Gynaecology in Ireland also warned that high obesity rates means the State will have to spend more.
"The potential complications of obesity in pregnancy can lead to longer duration of hospital stay and greater costs," he said.
"Given the high proportion of pregnant women who are obese, it is crucial to invest in weight-loss support for these women to reduce the risks for mothers and babies."