29 November 2008

Fat mothers, no more?

Looks like the days of 'eating for two' are well and truly over. Obesity during pregnancy is public enemy #1 in the eyes of biomedicine.

In Chicago (where I currently am blogging), Northwestern University's School of Medicine is opening a centre focusing exclusively on 'treating' and researching obesity, especially in pregnancy.

According to recent statistics, in 2007, almost half of the women who gave birth at Northwestern Memorial's Prentice Women's Hospital (where I was born!) were categorized as overweight, meaning they had a body-mass index between 25 and 29.9 before pregnancy. An additional 12 percent had a BMI of 30 or greater, the definition of obesity.

In Melbourne, it is suggested that more than 30 obese women are presenting at hospitals every month which is a huge increase over the last five years. At least 35% of pregnant patients are now considered to be obese. Doctors are saying that overweight pregnant women are "posing serious challenges" as it becomes increasingly difficult to monitor foetuses on ultrasound machines and monitor their heart rates. On a more practical level, medical staff complain that the hospital does not even have appropriate trolleys to transport pregnant women who weigh more than 150kg. As a result of the reportedly 'huge' rise in overweight mothers, Australian obstetricians are suggesting that obese women should have their weight vigiliantly monitored throughout pregnancy.

Unsurprisingly, overweight women are now being encouraged to seek out gastric band surgery prior to falling pregnant as a means of avoiding the 'risks' associated with obesity during pregnancy.

So rather than providing services for overweight women to learn about sensible weight loss, they are being encouraged to look to a surgical solution. This comes from the same band of obstetricians who continually lament the high rates of caesarean sections throughout the developed world (many of which are attributed to obesity in pregnancy). Surely, there has to be a better way to lower high rates of surgical birth associated with obesity other than asking obese women to have surgery to lose weight.



Olivia said...

I wonder how gastric bypass would work while you are pregnant. Wouldn't it restrict how many calories mom could consume, and possibly mean she couldn't eat enough for baby?

I was/am "obese" by BMI standards when I got pregnant. My midwife has not been concerned and says she has seen heavier women than I have uncompicated pregnancies and births. There has also been no problem finding the fetal heart rate or with the ultra sound.

River Eden Doula said...

"Surely, there has to be a better way to lower high rates of surgical birth associated with obesity other than asking obese women to have surgery to lose weight."

No kidding. What a stupid idea.

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