OVERWEIGHT pregnant women pay more for maternity care costs than those who have a normal weight.
A study of expectant mothers – who attended five maternity units along the western seaboard as private patients – found that 58pc of the women were either overweight or obese.
And overweight pregnant women who go on to develop gestational diabetes pay an average of €2,000 more for their medical care.
Working alongside Dr Paddy Gillespie from the school of economics at NUI Galway, Prof Dunne said the more overweight an expectant mother was, the more the costs of her childbirth increased.
"We looked at the cost implications for 4.372 women, of whom 854 had gestational diabetes, and also where a significant proportion of women were overweight or obese," Prof Dunne said.
"Gestational diabetes is developed within pregnancy. You don't start the pregnancy with it.
"If you develop gestational diabetes, it increases maternity care costs by 34pc."
Prof Dunne said the average costs for maternity care for expectant mothers who do not have gestational diabetes in the west of Ireland was €4,028.
"For people who have gestational diabetes, the cost is €6,092," she said.
For women who are obese, maternity costs come in on average at €4,873.
"What we found, if you have obesity – where your body mass index (BMI) is over 30 – it increases maternity care costs by 21pc," Prof Dunne said
"If you are overweight, costs go up by about 5pc.
"We know that 58pc of the (pregnant) women in the west of Ireland are either overweight or are obese at the time they become pregnant," she added.
Prof Dunne said the weight and diabetes issue must be addressed by health officials.
"Tackling obesity and gestational diabetes, which requires a proper screening programme and a service to limit the complications of the disease, really needs to be put in place," she said.
"The more overweight the mother, the more the costs go up," she added.
The women in the study attended maternity hospitals in Galway, Ballinasloe, Castlebar, Sligo and Letterkenny.
Atlantic Dip, which is funded by the Health Research Board, aims to improve the outcomes of pregnancy for women with diabetes by promoting evidence-based best practice before, during and after pregnancy.