Maternity units across the country are increasingly unable to cope with an increase in the number of obese pregnant women, a report has warned.
A survey by the Centre for Maternal and Child Enquiries (Cmace) found that many departments lacked the specialist equipment needed to carry out the complex and dangerous deliveries.
While most obstetric units had the right kind of delivery beds and blood pressure monitoring equipment, one in 10 was found not to have suitable operating theatre tables. Others lacked extra-wide chairs, theatre trolleys and ward beds. A further 44% had no guidelines for the care and management of obese pregnant women.
The survey came as Cmace published joint guidance with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists on the problem.
The document, issued to the NHS, advises that pregnant women with a body mass index of 35 or over should be discouraged from giving birth at home. Instead, they should be referred to a hospital unit led by consultants.
It also calls for overweight women to be given dietary and exercise advice to prevent additional weight gain during pregnancy.
Professor Cathy Warwick, general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “The bottom line here is that we need to help women to improve their lifestyle and health, for the sake of their own long-term health, and not just in pregnancy.”