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‘Major birth defect risk increases for obese’

16 June, 2017

‘Major birth defect risk increases for obese’

Risk of congenital malformations during the first year of life progressively increase with a mother’s overweight and obesity severity, states a new study.

The results of the research suggest that efforts should be made to encourage women of reproductive age to adopt a healthy lifestyle and to obtain a normal body weight before conception, say the authors.

Jacque Gerrard, RCM director for England, said: ‘Healthcare professionals have a role in informing women and their families about the risks.

‘In particular midwives are ideally placed to support and advise women about healthy eating and weight gain during pregnancy. 

‘We also know that this is best received where the midwife has already formed a positive relationship with the women in models of care such as continuity of carer where it is well evidenced that this improves health outcomes.’
She added: ‘There is a need for greater priority to be placed on prevention interventions including giving women evidence based information, education and also support for women and their families, about the benefits of healthy eating before and during pregnancy, and taking appropriate exercise.
The researchers, led by Martina Persson and Martin Neovius at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, set out to investigate whether risks of major congenital malformations increase with severity of obesity in mothers.
They analysed information on more than 1.2 million live singleton births in Sweden recorded in the medical birth register between 2001 and 2014.
A total of 43,550 (3.5%) offspring had any major congenital malformation. Heart defects were the most common malformation, followed by defects of the genital organs, limbs, urinary system, digestive system, and nervous system.
The researchers found that, compared with offspring of normal weight mothers (risk of malformations 3.4%), the proportions of any major congenital malformation among the offspring of mothers with higher BMI were: overweight, 3.5%; obesity class I, 3.8%, obesity class II, 4.2% and obesity class III, 4.7%.
The overall risk of any major congenital malformation was higher in boys (4.1%) than in girls (2.8%). The risks of congenital heart defects, malformations of the nervous system, and limb defects also progressively increased with BMI from overweight to obesity class III.

To read the full study, click here.

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