According to Columbus OBGYN Dr. Otto Umana, a new study indicates that obesity is the single most significant characteristic that escalates a pregnant woman’s chance of having a stillbirth.
Obesity in the mother is already a known risk factor for fetal death, as well as for complications with the pregnancy such as gestational diabetes. But the current obesity epidemic is escalating concern, and prompting updated analyses of the risk of a stillbirth.
According to your Columbus OBGYN, in 2006, about three out of every 1,000 pregnancies (of 28 weeks or more) resulted in stillbirth, and the rate has been slightly declining for decades, according to federal data.
To see how obesity impacted this risk, researchers studied records from Texas and Washington, which are among 17 states that collect pre-pregnancy weight data in conjunction with birth statistics. The analysis revealed over 9,000 stillbirths among 2.8 million deliveries (of a single child) during the period from 2003 to 2011.
About half of the women studied were of normal weight; just over 25 percent were overweight; and the rest fell into four increasingly serious categories of obesity.
Overall, the researchers found the stillbirth rate mirrored the national one, which is three in 1,000 births. But as the mother’s weight and the fetal age increased, so did the risk of stillbirth, doubling for moderately obese women and more than tripling with “super” obesity (a BMI of 50 or more).
At full term – between 37 and 42 weeks – the risk for stillbirth for the most obese women skyrocketed. For example, at 41 weeks, a super-obese woman was almost 15 times more likely to have a stillbirth than a woman at a normal weight. That’s a more powerful connection than previous studies have determined.
Exactly why obesity in the mother is harmful to the fetus is unclear, but it may be the result of insufficient oxygen, or hormonal or metabolic disturbances.
There are a lot of things women can do before pregnancy to reduce their risk. Urging women to lose weight before becoming pregnant is a prevention strategy used by your Columbus OBGYN.
If you have any questions about obesity and the risk of having a stillbirth, call the office of Columbus OBGYN Dr. Otto Umana today!