THE number of mums-to-be who are overweight or obese at their first maternity hospital booking is increasing – putting their own health and their baby's at risk.
Dr Anne Doolan, a paediatrician and clinical tutor in neonatology at the Coombe Maternity Hospital in Dublin, said the findings from 2010 showing 28pc of pregnant women were overweight and 19pc were obese at 12 weeks were now likely to be even higher.
These women are at increased risk of miscarriage, losing the pregnancy, delivering early, having a pre-term baby or needing a caesarean section.
"Women are screened selectively for gestational diabetes, the type that affects women during pregnancy. If they are overweight, they are more at risk," she told a conference at the Royal College of Physicians.
The women have to be referred to a specialist dietitian who will advise them on diet and low GI foods, she pointed out.
For some women, diet changes are not enough and they have to take insulin during pregnancy.
They are also at higher risk of developing type two diabetes later on.
Some research shows that women who are obese while pregnant may be at a higher chance of having a baby with a condition such as spina bifida but more studies are needed to find out if this could be because they are not absorbing the B vitamin, folic acid, which reduces the risk of serious birth defects.
Babies who are born to these mothers also have a higher chance of being bigger, which leaves them more at risk of being obese later in life.
Key advice to women who have gained weight during pregnancy is to try to lose it through small, regular, healthy meals and exercise before another pregnancy.