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Obesity during pregnancy increases risks to baby, doctors say

By Lori Prichard | Posted - Jul 18th, 2013 @ 6:48pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Pregnancy isn't easy for moms. But being pregnant and obese is hard on mom and the baby.

Dayna Perez knows the dangers of being pregnant and obese. When she became pregnant, she was 360 pounds, and by the time she delivered she weighed 416 pounds.

"It was a really difficult pregnancy," Perez said. "Labor and delivery ended up being 26 hours long. (I delivered) three weeks early because of the chance of him being stillborn because I was overweight."

Christine Nefcy, M.D. chief medical officer at McKay-Dee Hospital explained the dangers of obesity during pregnancy and the complications it can cause to the infant after birth.

"Often times when we have morbidly obese women who are pregnant, the babies get delivered earlier," Nefcy said. "The earlier they get delivered, the less mature they are, and often the maturity issue is with their lungs. So very often those babies end up in our NICU, on oxygen."

That's what happened with Perez, but it may have been prevented, said Liz Joy, M.D. with Intermountain Healthcare.

"Whether a woman is obese or normal weight, women shouldn't be fearful of activity during their pregnancy," Joy said. "They should try to achieve 150 minutes a week, which is 30 minutes, five days a week."

Obstetricians have recommended exercise during pregnancy for well over a decade, and there are no limitations in terms of heart rate. Women can do whatever activity is comfortable for them.

Besides reducing risks, exercise during pregnancy pays off with more comfort.

"Patients who are active throughout their pregnancies say they are more energized by being active, they are less likely to complain of low back pain, they are less likely to have swelling in their legs," Joy said.

Perez' weight is now down 135 pounds, but pregnant or not, she reminds us that a focus on a healthy weight should begin much earlier.

"Try and get healthy and try to lose weight before your pregnancy, because that will be what is going to be more helpful for you in the long run," Perez said.

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