Researchers to aid obese women struggling with pregnancy

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Trial seeks to test efficacy of weight-sensitive treatment during pregnancy

49 pregnant Oxfordshire women recently participated in a clinical trial on the efficacy of weight-sensitive treatment during pregnancy. In the UK, overweight and obesity are very prevalent among women of childbearing age. Being obese while pregnant can cause harm both to the mother and the newborn child.

According to official numbers nearly half of all UK women between 16 and 44 are overweight (ca. 30%) or obese (ca. 20%). ‘Overweight’ is classified as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of between 25 and 30 and ‘obesity’ refers to figures on that index of above 30. Not only does obesity raise the risk of developing a variety of health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease or cancer, evidence suggests that being obese while pregnant can cause problems during childbirth and increase the health risks for newborns. A north England study from 2007 found that the risk of miscarriage or infant death was three times higher for women who had been obese during pregnancy than for women who had not. Other analyses suggested a less drastic but still significantly problematic effect of obesity during pregnancy.

The Oxford study, which took place at the hospitals John Radcliffe and Horton General, seeks to establish whether being routinely weighed and consulting with midwives in case of weight problems can help women to avoid obesity during their pregnancy and thereby better women’s and infant health.

Every one of the 49 mothers-to-be that participated was attended to with regular antenatal care and asked to complete a set of additional questionnaires. Dr Lucy Mackillop, who is leading the study, said: “We are grateful to the women and their midwives for taking part in this study, the results of which will hopefully benefit many women and their babies.”

“This is just one of many studies taking place at NHS hospitals and in GP Practices around the UK to help us better understand the causes of obesity, and how best to prevent it”, she noted.

The study receives funding from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and is supported by the University of Oxford. Its results are expected to be published at the end of the year.

Image: ceridwen (CC BY SA 2.0)

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