Risks of obesity during pregnancy highlighted

Tasmania's Council of Obstetric & Paediatric Mortality & Morbidity (COPMM) is urging prospective mothers to be aware of the risks associated with being obese before, during and after pregnancy.

The Council is charged with examining data relating to women, their babies and children.

The Chair of the Maternal Mortality & Morbidity Subcommittee, Dr Amanda Dennis, said the Council felt it was important that women are made aware of the risks associated with pregnancy and maternal obesity.

"Obesity of a woman at conception has been found to contribute to multiple complications during pregnancy including spina bifida, pre-existing and gestational hypertension, diabetes and preterm birth and foetal death.

"The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) states that around 50 per cent of women who become pregnant are either overweight or obese.

"In addition, some women gain more than the recommended healthy weight increase during pregnancy and do not lose the additional weight, creating increased risks for future pregnancies.

"While obstetric weight data for Tasmania as whole is not available, a snap shot audit at the LGH in 2012 found 49 per cent of women were classified as overweight or obese.

"COPMM believes it is important that women with elevated Body Mass Index are offered nutritional and exercise information pre-conception, during pregnancy and post pregnancy.

"Women should also be supported in safe weight loss, appropriate pregnancy weight gain and weight management post pregnancy and prior to conception of their next child.

"The Council's 2011 Annual Report recommends that a repeat morphology scan at 24 weeks gestation be performed on obese mothers when the initial scan is incomplete or suboptimal.

"It has also recommended that obese women take 5 mg rather than 400 micrograms of folic acid from preconception to 12 weeks gestation, given the increased risk of neural tube defects.

"Nutritional advice is extremely important for women pre, post and during pregnancy to ensure their baby is as healthy as possible.

"COPPM urges general practitioners and health professionals working with women to become familiar with the RANZCOG statement that provides advice on maternal obesity and risk mitigation and to examine the Antenatal Guidelines on the issue," Dr Dennis said.

The overall proportion of mothers smoking during pregnancy in 2011 was 17.1 per cent, which was significantly lower than reported in Tasmania in previous years.

While maternal smoking continues to be prevalent among younger women, a reduction in smoking rates during pregnancy was noted across all reported aged groups in 2011.

The Council finds it encouraging that the percentage of public patients who smoked during pregnancy was significantly lower in 2011 than the previous year.

COPMM 2011 Annual Report at a glance:

-       There were 6 289 live births recorded in 2011, a 3.2 per cent increase on the previous year

-       The Tasmanian Perinatal Mortality rate was lower than reported in recent years as well as lower than the national figure.  There were no maternal deaths.

-       Males accounted for 51.7 per cent of those births, while there were 103 multiple births including 103 sets of twins and no triplets.

-       46.1 per cent of mothers were aged over 30 years and 40.4 per cent had their first baby

-       31.8 per cent of mothers gave birth by caesarean section compared to 22.1 per cent in 2000

-       75 per cent of mothers were breastfeeding at discharge

A copy of the COPMM Annual Report 2011 can be found at : http://www.dhhs.tas.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/138209/2011_COPMM_ANNUAL_REPORT_Tasmania.pdf