Wednesday 17 January 2018

Babies who are large at birth risk being 'fat for life'

Dr Rhona Mahony and Dr Muireann Cullen at the NHF Annual Seminar at the Gibson Hotel in Dublin yesterday
Dr Rhona Mahony and Dr Muireann Cullen at the NHF Annual Seminar at the Gibson Hotel in Dublin yesterday
Breda Heffernan

Breda Heffernan

ONE in five babies born at the country's busiest maternity hospital weigh over 10lb and run the risk of being "fat for life".

Dr Rhona Mahony, master of the National Maternity Hospital on Holles Street, Dublin, warned that very large babies have a much greater chance of being obese in childhood and as adults.

She said almost 38pc of women attending the hospital are now overweight or obese -- leading to higher risk births and posing serious health problems for both mother and baby.

"There is a myth out there that once you become pregnant you can eat what you like and you don't have to exercise or move. That's not true," she told delegates at an obesity conference in Dublin yesterday.

A study carried out at Holles Street of 358 women found that just one-fifth met the current recommendation of exercising for 30 minutes a day.

Worryingly, 12pc admitted they did no kind of physical activity at all.

"These figures are shocking . . . Exercise is safe in pregnancy," said Dr Mahony.

She said it was important that women avoided excessive weight gain in pregnancy. They are advised not to gain more than 22lbs -- less for women who are already overweight.

Dr Mahony warned that babies who are large at birth -- over 10lb -- run the risk of being "fat for life" and that such large babies go on to have a much greater chance of childhood obesity and adult obesity.

According to the ESRI, the average baby born in 2010 weighed 7.6lb.

Holles Street currently has a caesarean section rate of up to 22pc and this is "rising all the time" as mothers are getting older and heavier.

Being overweight or obese in pregnancy poses a number of health risks for women, particularly gestational diabetes.


Meanwhile for the baby, there is a heightened risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida, cardiac malformation, renal problems, abdominal wall defects and stillbirth.

Dr Mahony was speaking at an obesity conference held by the Nutrition and Health Foundation.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, master of the Rotunda Dr Sam Coulter-Smith said average birth weights are increasing as is the size of women attending his hospital.

He said for many such women the pregnancy can be the first time medical staff can help them address their weight problems.

Irish Independent

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