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Obesity warning for maternity units

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Maternity units are “under-prepared” for the increasing number of pregnant women who are classed as severely obese, according to a new study.

Figures show that about one in 20 pregnant women in the UK is severely obese, putting themselves and their babies at risk of health problems, the Centre for Maternal and Child Enquiries (CMACE) said.

The centre for UK maternity units also warned obesity rates among pregnant women are likely to rise as part of a growing problem within in the general population.

Wales has the highest rate of severe maternal obesity in the UK, at 6.5%, or one in every 15 pregnant women.

In England, the region with the highest rate was East of England at 6.2%, or one in every 16 pregnant women, with London recording the lowest rates at 3.5%, or one in 29.

Stillbirth rates in severely obese women were 8.6 per 1,000 single births, twice as high as the overall national stillbirth rate of 3.9, with the risk of stillbirth growing with increasing obesity, the study showed.

Tim Draycott, clinical lead at CMACE and a consultant obstetrician at Southmead Hospital in Bristol, said: “It is difficult to exaggerate how big a problem this is for most of us working in the NHS. There are significant associated complications for mothers and their babies and much of that harm is preventable given the right care.”

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