The Perils of Too Many Pregnancy Pounds

It's a fact that pregnancy is more difficult for some women than for others. In recent years, medical research has caught up to the knowledge that care providers have long understood: Obese women can have more problems in their pregnancies than their slimmer counterparts.

During the past 30 years, the number of overweight childbearing women increased 30 percent. Average weight gain in pregnancy increased from 22 pounds to 33 pounds during the same time period.

What Are The Risks?
Overweight women have a higher incidence of menstrual irregularities. They begin menstruation at an earlier age and experience menopause later, and that's now known to increase risk of ovarian cancer. As estrogen is stored in fat deposits, obese women might have an "oversupply" of this hormone in comparison to progesterone that may put them at risk for uterine cancer as well as dysfunctional uterine bleeding and polycystic ovarian syndrome.

Some obese women have problems with infertility, but those who attain pregnancy may find they are at risk for many complications:

-- They have a higher incidence of gestational diabetes (a fivefold increase) '- and those with gestational diabetes have twice the risk of delivering children with chromosomal defects.

-- They become diabetics in larger proportion later in life.

-- They are at increased risk for preeclampsia and eclampsia, and in a subsequent pregnancy, the risk of preeclampsia quadruples if the mother is still obese.

-- Their delivery might be prolonged, and cesarean section is performed much more frequently.

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