Doctors are alarmed over obesity in mums having second child
Women waiting longer to start a family means maternity units are dealing with a higher level of maternal obesity, according to a leading obstetrician.
Professor Michael Turner also told how new research in the Coombe Maternity Hospital in Dublin shows that within three years of having their first baby, a significant number of women had become overweight or obese by the time they had a second child.
Speaking at a summer school organised by the clinical advisory group on obesity at the Royal College of Physicians, he warned maternal obesity puts mother and baby at greater risk of complications.
There is a gap in pre-pregnancy care and it was suggested that GPs should advise any woman who is obese and at risk of becoming pregnant to take high dose folic acid supplements.
Speaking at the gathering, Dr Brendan O'Shea, a GP in Kildare who chairs the advisory group, said a lot of patients are not aware they are overweight, but that a doctor can do a lot with a brief intervention in "just a minute".
"Every GP service needs to be weight-aware," he said.
A small survey carried out by his practice found that a third of people did not own weighing scales and among those who had one, not all were using it properly.
GPs can make suggestions such as prescribing exercise and asking patients what kind of activity they did in the past. Children should be urged to only eat in the kitchen rather than the living room as well.
"Parents of small children should always have a football in the car," he suggested, as a way to promote exercise.
Many doctors are themselves overweight, he added.
National obesity lead Professor Donal O'Shea criticised the low number of anti-obesity surgeries that are carried out.
In 2018, the HSE carried out just 12 surgeries per million people in Ireland, compared with 600 per million in France.
While bariatric surgery is not a complete solution in itself, it is an essential part of a whole-of-health system response, he added.