An epidemic of obesity is affecting pregnant women in the UK, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has claimed.
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Around half of all women of childbearing age are deemed either overweight, with a body mass index of 25-29.9, or obese, meaning a BMI of 30 or above, according to NICE.
It added that it classes 16% of all women who fall pregnant as being obese.
According to King’s College London’s maternal and foetal research chief, Lucilla Poston: “These guidelines are incredibly timely: we have an epidemic of obesity amongst our pregnant population.
“At St Thomas’ recently we looked at our stats and there has been an exponential increase in obesity amongst our women attending ante-natal clinics, such that now 40% of the women are overweight or obese.
“In the UK, the best statistics we have suggests between 15% and 20% of pregnant women are coming into pregnancy with a BMI which is less than ideal.”
Obese women have more chance of having complications during pregnancy, she added.
Potential complications included impaired glucose tolerance and gestational diabetes, miscarriage, pre-eclampsia, thromboembolism and maternal death.
Research also suggested that obese women were more likely to have an induced or longer labour, instrumental delivery, caesarean section or a postpartum haemorrhage.
Louise Silverton, deputy general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “These women need to see a midwife as early as possible in their pregnancy. They need more time to spend with a midwife to help and advise them as well as involving the wider healthcare team.”