Obesity in Pregnancy Linked to Fetal and Infant Death

Lowest fetal and infant death risks in women with a body mass index of 23 kg/m²

THURSDAY, April 28 (HealthDay News) -- Early pregnancy obesity significantly increases the risk of fetal and infant death, independent of risks associated with congenital anomalies and maternal pre-gestational diabetes, according to a study published online April 5 in Human Reproduction.

Peter W.G. Tennant, M.D., from Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, and colleagues investigated the association between early-pregnancy body mass index (BMI) and risk of fetal (more than 20 weeks' gestation) and infant (aged up to 1 year) death in 29,856 singleton pregnancies, which were not affected by congenital anomalies or pre-gestational diabetes. The participants were classified as underweight (BMI less than 18.5 kg/m²) or overweight (BMI, 25 to 29.9 kg/m²), and compared to women of recommended BMI (18.5 to 24.9 kg/m²).

The investigators found that the risks of fetal and infant death increased significantly in obese women (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 2.32 and 1.97, respectively). Fetal and infant death risks were lowest among women with BMIs of 23 kg/m², and increased with increasing or decreasing BMI (aOR per unit, 1.07 for fetal death and 1.06 for infant death). No significant excess risk of fetal and infant death was found for either underweight or overweight mothers. No specific cause could be found for increased fetal and infant death risk in obese except for higher pre-eclampsia rates among stillbirths.

"Early pregnancy obesity is significantly associated with fetal and infant death, independent of the known relationships with congenital anomalies and maternal pre-gestational diabetes," the authors write.

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