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  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: August 2012

8 - Long-term consequences of obesity in pregnancy for the mother

from Section 3 - Long-term consequences



Current knowledge argues that pregnancy serves as a preview of a woman’s long-term health. The numerous physiological changes during pregnancy, which stress the metabolic system [1], can reveal subclinical disease states as well as identify new ones [2,3]. Evidence for this assertion exists in studies that have examined the association between gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) and subsequent type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) [4], as well as hypertensive disorders during pregnancy and subsequent cardiovascular disease risk factors [5]. Whether pregnancy is on the causal pathway or simply a time period that allows these chronic diseases to be unmasked remains yet to be determined. Obese women are more likely to be at higher risk of developing complications such as GDM, hypertensive disorders, and pre-eclampsia during pregnancy [6–9]. In this chapter we will focus on the evidence for the association between gestational weight gain and postpartum weight retention among obese women, as well as the association between obesity and lack of breastfeeding, and how these associations are potentially interrelated to cause further disease in obese women.

Postpartum weight retention

Pregnancy and its associated weight gain may be potential “triggers” for the development of obesity in women [10,11]. Pooled estimates of average absolute postpartum weight retention in units of body mass index (BMI) (kg/m2) are 2.42 (95% CI: 2.32–2.52) at six weeks, 1.14 (95% CI: 1.04–1.25) at six months, and 0.46 (95% CI: 0.38–0.54) at twelve months postpartum [12]. These estimates suggest that most women will lose the majority of weight that is associated with pregnancy within one year postpartum. However, many studies have observed a wide range of variation in postpartum weight retention [13,14], with as many as 20% of women having substantial postpartum weight retention ranging over 5kg (11lbs) [13].

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