Thrombosis: Obese women are at a significantly higher risk of venous thromboembolism
(VTE) and this risk is highest in the days after delivery. This is the case whether
the delivery was vaginal or caesarean section. Venous thrombo-embolism (VTE) is a
serious and potentially life threatening complication. In fact, in many western countries,
it is the leading cause of maternal death.
Newborn morbidity: All the problems discussed above occurring in pregnancy and during
deliver mean babies born to obese mothers are faced with a myriad of risks. These
could result from fetal malformations, preterm delivery or a difficult and traumatic
birth. The rate of admission to a special care baby unit for these babies is more
than three times the average.
Stillbirth and neonatal death: Because of the higher rate of many pregnancy complications,
the risk of stillbirth is significantly higher among obese women. The risk of unexplained
stillbirth is also higher. Overall stillbirth is three times higher for obese women.
The risk of death of the baby in the neonatal period (first month of life) is also
increased by about the same degree.
Child’s long term health: A child born to an obese mother carries with him/her long
term health consequences. Recent research findings show that maternal obesity during
pregnancy increases the risk of asthma for the child. These children are also at
a higher risk of coronary heart disease in their own adulthood. Their fate on this
front is sealed in their mothers’ wombs many years in advance.
In the UK, women who embark upon a pregnancy whilst obese have, on average, a hospital
stay six times longer than their normal-weight counterparts. The cost of the care
they receive in pregnancy is also about five times higher. As health care is universal
and free in the UK, the mother may not feel the impact of this directly.
In countries such as the United States where this is not the case, the personal financial
implication could be enormous. This is particularly significant because obesity affects
the poorer members of society a great deal more and these are the people who are
likely to be uninsured. The cost of the birth alone in a low risk Birth Center in
the United States is around $3000 to $4000. However, since obesity is regarded (correctly)
as a high risk factor, Birth Centers will not accept an obese woman to have a baby
there. The birth in hospital costs twice as much (if it is normal). That cost spirals
dramatically when it is complicated or a cesarean section is required.