Little is known about reproductive health in severely obese women. In this study, we present associations between different levels of severe obesity and a wide range of health outcomes in the mother and child.
From the Danish National Birth Cohort, we obtained self-reported information about prepregnant body mass index (BMI) for 2451 severely obese women and 2450 randomly selected women from the remaining cohort who served as a comparison group. Information about maternal and infant outcomes was also self-reported or came from registers. Logistic regression was used to estimate the association between different levels of severe obesity and reproductive outcomes.
Subfecundity was more frequent in severely obese women, and during pregnancy, they had an excess risk of urinary tract infections, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders which increased with severity of obesity. They tended to have a higher risk of both pre- and post-term birth, and risk of cesarean and instrumental deliveries increased across obesity categories. After birth, severely obese women more often failed to initiate or sustain breastfeeding. Risk of weight retention 1.5 years after birth was similar to that of other women, but after adjustment for gestational weight gain, the risk was increased, especially in women in the lowest obesity category. In infants, increasing maternal obesity was associated with decreased risk of a low birth weight and increased risk of a high birth weight. Estimates for ponderal index showed the same pattern indicating an increasing risk of neonatal fatness with severity of obesity. Infant obesity measured one year after birth was also increased in children of severely obese mothers.
Severe obesity is correlated with a substantial disease burden in reproductive health. Although the causal mechanisms remain elusive, these findings are useful for making predictions and planning health care at the individual level.