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Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2001 Oct;185(4):845-9.

The effect of the increasing prevalence of maternal obesity on perinatal morbidity.

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Center for Research in Women's Health, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, The University of Alabama at Birmingham, AL, USA.



In this study, we assessed the temporal trends and relative and attributable perinatal risks of maternal obesity over a 20-year period.


We conducted a retrospective cohort study between 1980 and 1999 by using a computerized perinatal database of all women who received prenatal care and delivered their infants within a regional health care system. The main outcome measures were as follows: (1) annual mean body weight and the percentage of women classified as obese at the first prenatal visit (primary definition > or = 200 lb; secondary definitions > or = 250 lb, > or = 300 lb, body mass index > 29 kg/m(2)); and (2) relative and attributable risks of obesity for selected maternal and perinatal morbidities in successive 5-year periods.


From 1980 to 1999, the mean maternal weight of women at the first prenatal visit increased 20% (144-172 lb), as did the percentage of women > or = 200 lb (7.3-24.4), the percentage > or = 250 lb (1.9-10.7), the percentage > or = 300 lb (0.5-4.9), and the percentage with a body mass index > 29 kg/m(2) (16.3-36.4), P < .01 for all. Controlling for maternal age, race, and smoking status, obese women were at increased risk at each period for cesarean delivery (range of adjusted relative risk, 1.5-1.8), gestational diabetes (range, 1.8-2.9), and large (> 90th percentile) for gestational age infants (range, 1.8-2.2). From the earliest 5-year period (1980-1984) to the most recent (1995-1999), the percentage of obesity-attributable cesarean deliveries more than tripled from 3.9 to 11.6. Similar percentage increases were observed for the obesity-attributable risks for gestational diabetes (12.8-29.6) and large for gestational age infants (6.5-19.1). Trends for secondary obesity definitions were similar, although the magnitude of the increased attributable risks was smaller.


Efforts to reduce the frequency of certain perinatal morbidities will be constrained unless effective measures to prevent, or limit the risks of, maternal obesity are developed and implemented.

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