Obesity and Infant Mortality

If you are struggling with obesity and thinking of becoming pregnant, you may already know that obesity poses an increased risk of several pregnancy complications, including gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. But there are also serious risks to the baby, even into his/her first year of life. A recent study found that pre-pregnancy obesity is strongly associated with infant mortality. The study used birth and death records of more than 6 million newborns around the country from 2012-2013, which included information on the mother’s height and pre-pregnancy weight.

The researchers found that the rate of infant mortality from preterm reasons, increased as the mom’s BMI was higher. The mortalities were twice as common for mothers who were obese, compared to those of normal-weight women. Deaths from Sudden Infant Death syndrome and congenital anomalies were higher in babies born to mothers who were obese. The risk of infant death was 32 percent higher for mothers in a lower obese category compared to babies born to women with normal pre-pregnancy weights, and that risk rose to being 73 percent higher for mothers with a BMI over 40. Doctors generally advise that obese women gain fewer than 20 pounds while they’re pregnant. But even following this important recommendation successfully seems to have little effect on mortality rates for babies born to mothers who are obese.

There is good news for potential mothers who focus on substantial weight loss before pregnancy: another recent study found that achieving a healthy weight before becoming pregnant significantly reduces the risk of infant mortality. These findings, in tandem with prior research, underscore the importance of primary care clinicians, OB-GYNs and midwives initiating conversations about weight as part of well-woman care and when women are contemplating getting pregnant. Of course, many women who are obese have perfectly healthy pregnancies and babies, but achieving a ‘normal’ pre-pregnancy weight can improve the odds of a healthy outcome for both mother and baby.

If you are obese and considering pregnancy, losing weight is an important first step. There are several weight loss options available that may be a good fit for you. Dr. Rachel Moore and the team at Moore Metabolics are dedicated to working with each patient through every step of their journey and are happy to answer any questions you may have about weight loss. Many of our past patients have gone on to have happy, healthy babies, and we love being part of that journey.