SALT LAKE CITY -- State health officials have been reported as saying infant mortality rates have jumped 17 percent among obese women. They want to keep the problem from getting out of control. Doctors say obesity in pregnant women could lead to other problems, not just infant mortality.
Dr. Erica Faircloth with St. Mark's Hospital said, "There are some new, recent studies that actually did show association of many different types of birth defects [with obesity], anywhere from heart effects to limb defects."
Faircloth says the rate of these problems is still relatively low, but the rate is increased for obese women. Also, being overweight could lead to gestational diabetes and increased C-section rates.
"A patient who may start out with mild to high blood pressure is definitely at a higher risk for developing preeclampsia, and when it's severe can definitely lead someone to have to have a delivery early," she said.
However, pregnancy is not the right time to ask a woman to lose weight. Faircloth says a patient with a lower body mass index could gain roughly 35 pounds or more safely while pregnant. For overweight women, Faircloth says 15 to 20 extra pounds could be appropriate. Little to no weight gain in a patient that is already very heavy is not a problem in some cases.
"You want to make sure to do the ultrasound screening for any of those birth defects the babies potentially could have," she said.
Faircloth says weight can be a touchy subject. She says it's important for doctors to focus on the health of the mother and the child when they talk about potentially dangerous weight issues with patients. That's her approach, and she says none of her patients have been offended while talking about their weight.