Obesity Increases Risk for Preterm Delivery


by Rachel Burt, Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner at Roswell OB/GYN…………………………………

In a recent study published in the Journal of American Medical Association, Swedish researchers revealed the link between obesity and preterm delivery.  Preterm delivery is the leading cause of infant death, prolonged hospital stays and long term disability.  The study identified an association between obesity and preterm delivery rates.

Researchers analyzed data from 1992 to 2010. In over 1.5 million deliveries, approximately 5 percent of babies were born prior to 37 weeks.  The study divided the premature deliveries into 3 categories: extremely preterm (22-27 weeks), very preterm (28-31 weeks), and moderately preterm (32-36 weeks). The risk of “very” and “extremely” preterm deliveries increased with body mass index.

We know from previous studies that obesity increases your risk for complications during pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes and pre eclampsia.  If these pregnancy complications become severe, pre term delivery may be required. Apart from induced early deliveries secondary to complications, this study sought to establish a relationship between obesity and spontaneous preterm delivery.  In fact, extremely premature birth occurred in 0.17 percent of normal-weight women, 0.21 percent of overweight women, 0.27 percent of mildly obese women, 0.35 percent of severely obese women and 0.52 percent of extremely obese women. Although more obese women delivery full term infants than premature infants, the increased risk for extreme premature infants in this population is significantly increased compare to average weight women.

Further research needs to assess other populations and prove causality.

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