Is being overweight a problem?

Is being overweight when you are pregnant a problem?

When you combine an already existing excess weight with the weight gained during a pregnancy it can indeed make for a complicated pregnancy.

Whenever the body carries extra weight it places a strain on many systems. The heart, the lungs, the muscles, the bones, the kidneys, the pancreas are challenged when the body is carrying extra weight.

There is a difference between being a little overweight and being obese. Obesity is described as having a pre-pregnancy weight or pregnancy weight of more than 200 pounds, being greater than 110 percent of ideal body weight at the first prenatal visit and having a BMI (body mass index) greater than 30.

The heart works 35 to 40 percent harder during pregnancy. If the heart is already strained by extra weight, that can increase the workload of the heart by 50 percent.

The extra weight of pregnancy and the uterus expanding into the chest cause a decrease in tidal volume (normal breath). For the obese patient breathing is already a challenge. One area of concern for the obese pregnant patient is called obesity hypoventilation (a reduced rate and depth of breathing), or “Pickwickian Syndrome” (named in reference to the Dickens character, Fat Joe, in the “Pickwick Papers”). The symptoms for this condition are sleepiness during the day, snoring or waking frequently during the night trying to breathe. This condition can lead to pulmonary hypertension and sleep apnea. This may be fatal if left untreated.

An increase in weight also places excessive strain on the musculoskeletal system. Excessive weight increases the work of the back and leg muscles and may result in backache, leg pain, increased fatigue and aggravated varicose veins.

Obese women also are more prone to develop hiatal hernias. Urinary tract infections also are more commonly found in obese pregnant women. This is very painful and dangerous because it could lead to a premature delivery.

Diabetes and deep vein clots also are more prevalent when pregnancy and obesity coexist.

Obese pregnant patients have a 55 percent increased risk of having a cesarean delivery, the baby’s shoulders getting stuck during delivery, excessive blood loss and difficulty with anesthesia.

So the answer is yes. Maintaining a weight that is good for you will also be good for your baby.