Obesity increases pregnancy complications

Obese women are much more likely to suffer from minor complications such as heart burn and chest infections during pregnancy.

A pregnant woman

The Tommy’s Centre for Maternal and Fetal Health at the university is looking at obesity in pregnancy and how this can be addressed to improve both the health of mother and child.

Researchers studied the records of more than 650 pregnant women, of whom nearly half were overweight or obese at the beginning of their pregnancy.


Research found that obese mothers-to-be were nearly 10 times more likely to suffer from chest infections compared with pregnant women of a healthy weight.

They were more than twice as likely to suffer from headaches and heartburn and more than three times more likely to have carpal tunnel syndrome.

This occurs when an increase in fluid causes swelling in the wrist and can cause tingling, pain, numbness and lack of coordination in the hands.

The study also found that obese women had a more than three-fold increased risk of suffering from a condition known as symphysis-pubis dysfunction.

The condition affects the pelvic joints and may cause walking difficulties if severe.

The study

The study, published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, took into account factors such as age and smoking.

Costs of treating minor complications in obese women were estimated to be more than three times that of treating women of a healthy body weight.

Although symptoms such as heartburn are common and generally perceived to be benign, they can still have a major impact on the quality of life for pregnant women and can be linked to more serious conditions.

Dr Rebecca ReynoldsTommy’s Centre for Maternal and Fetal Health

Obesity in pregnancy

Around a quarter of pregnant women giving birth are obese.

Obesity during pregnancy also increases the risk of more serious conditions such as gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia and the need for a caesarean section.