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Obesity and Pregnancy: Risks You Need To Know

Medically reviewed by Jobelle Ann Dela Cruz Bigalbal, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Hazel Caingcoy · Updated Jul 14, 2022

Obesity and Pregnancy: Risks You Need To Know

What is the connection between obesity and pregnancy? Firstly, women who have excess weight may have difficulty having a baby because of irregularities in the progesterone and estrogen levels in their bodies. The estrogen produced by fat cells may interfere with ovulation. 

Fertility may also affected by a high body mass index (BMI) because it impairs regular ovulation. Women with a higher BMI do not appear to become pregnant as quickly as those with a normal BMI, even if they ovulate regularly. 

Specific fertility treatment methods, such as IVF or in vitro fertilization, are affected by obesity. In general, a higher BMI reduces your chances of getting pregnant through IVF. This shows that obesity and pregnancy are correlated. 

Pregnancy and Obesity: What Are the Risks and Complications?


A pregnant woman who develops preeclampsia suffers from high blood pressure that can cause kidney and liver damage. It is possible to have seizures, a heart attack, or a stroke because of preeclampsia. 

Complicated conditions such as placental problems and problems with the fetus’ growth are also possible. 

The onset of preeclampsia generally occurs after the 20th week of pregnancy

Obstructive Sleep Apnea 

Women who are overweight tend to have sleep apnea. An individual with sleep apnea stops breathing for short periods during sleep and this can pose a serious threat especially if the woman is pregnant.

Anemia, preeclampsia, high blood pressure, heart and lung problems can result from obesity and pregnancy chances become risky.

Gestational Diabetes 

Women who are pregnant may have this type of diabetes. Gestational diabetes is the result of having too much sugar (glucose) in your blood during the duration of the pregnancy. 

Pregnant women with this condition are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes after having their babies.

Venous Thromboembolism

Venous thromboembolism, also referred to as VTE, is a potentially deadly blood clot condition. 

Pregnant women who are overweight may, in some instances, develop blood clots. Blood clots may break off and travel through the body to organs like the brain, lungs, or heart. VTE can result in a heart attack or stroke in obese pregnant women. 

Cesarean Birth 

Pregnant women who are obese are more likely to have a C-section (also known as a cesarean birth). During this surgery, the baby is delivery through a surgical incision made by your doctor in the belly and womb. 

A woman is likely to face complications after a C-section because of obesity and pregnancy. Complications like infections and excessive blood loss can occur during a c-section. 

How Does Obesity Affect the Baby?  

Premature Birth

Premature birth can happen because of obesity and pregnancy chances can also be put at risk. If you give birth before 37 weeks, your baby can suffer serious health problems. 

The development of preterm babies is not as complete as that of those born after 39 weeks of pregnancy. Consequently, preterm babies are at an increased risk of short-term and long-term health problems.

Diagnostic Testing Problems

Another link between obesity and pregnancy is that it can pose a challenge to diagnostic tests. An ultrasound exam can be challenging to perform when a woman has too much body fat. Being overweight also makes checking the heart rate of the fetus during labor more difficult.


Macrosomia is also known as large for gestational age or LGA. When the baby is LGA, this means that they weighed more than 8 pounds, 13 ounces. If your baby is this large, they may suffer injuries during the labor and delivery process. 

Furthermore, you may need a C-section if the baby is large for gestational age. Late in life, large babies are more likely to suffer from obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and asthma.

Birth Defects

Congenital disabilities of the spine and brain are known as neural tube defects (NTDs). Birth defects are inherited health conditions that affect a child. 

A congenital disability can alter one or more body parts in both appearance and function. These conditions may have an impact on overall health, development, or the function of the body.

Does Obesity Lead to Miscarriage?

Many factors can contribute to a miscarriage. However, studies have shown that miscarriage, obesity, and pregnancy may be correlated. Excess weight increases the possibility of a miscarriage. The odds of miscarriage were 1.45 times higher among women with obesity.

When a pregnancy ends before the 20th week, it is classified as a miscarriage. On the other hand, stillbirth occurs before delivery, but after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Key Takeaway

Obesity and pregnancy are highly related. Obesity makes pregnancy more complicated and can, overall, reduce the chances of a healthy delivery. If you’re currently pregnant or planning to conceive, talk to your doctor about proper weight management. 

Learn more about getting pregnant safely, here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Jobelle Ann Dela Cruz Bigalbal, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Hazel Caingcoy · Updated Jul 14, 2022

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