Maternal Obesity: What Is It and How Does It Affect a Mother’s Physical and Mental Health?

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Maternal obesity confers a heightened risk of pregnancy complications. When a woman has a BMI (body mass index) over 30 while pregnant, her healthcare provider will closely monitor her pregnancy.

One can calculate BMI by multiplying their weight in pounds by 703 and dividing that number by the square of their height in inches (BMI = (weight in pounds x 703) / (height in inches x height in inches). A BMI of 30 or above is considered obese, and it can cause many serious health problems.

For people with BMI over 40, health care providers can recommend a treatment known as bariatric or weight loss surgery.

But what if an expecting mother is obese? Will her current weight affect her mental and physical health? This article explains what maternal obesity is and discusses the causes and effects of this condition on mothers’ mental and physical health.

What Is Maternal Obesity and What Causes It?

The standard way to measure obesity in non-pregnant people is the same way to determine if a pregnant person is obese, and that is through their BMI. The same goes; a BMI higher than 30 is considered obese.

Naturally, a pregnant woman will gain weight during pregnancy, so it is vital to do the essentials to maintain and control her weight. They shouldn’t gain too much because it will cause problems for them and their baby.

One of the common causes of maternal obesity during pregnancy is following an unhealthy diet plan with too much fat and sugar while doing little to no activity. Pregnant women need to stay active with routine activities and exercise unless told otherwise by their doctor.

The environment is also a significant factor in developing obesity. A person can only do little to none when they have an environment that can tolerate obesity. It can be a gym that is more expensive than a month of food, a place packed with fast food on every corner, or simply a place with no park to walk around.

Sometimes, lifestyle and environment are not the only factors in maternal obesity. Genes can also play a part in continuous weight gain. However, lifestyle, food intake, physical activity, and environment still maintain and even worsen the problem of obesity.

Maternal obesity and physical and mental health

How Does Maternal Obesity Affect a Mother's Mental Health?

There are many studies on the effect of maternal obesity on the physical health of mothers. The focus is mainly on the unborn child neglecting the mom’s mental health. A study has shown that pregnant women considered obese are more likely to undergo elevated antenatal and symptoms of postpartum depression than pregnant women with normal BMI.

Obesity can cause one to develop a negative body image leading to low self-esteem and affecting many areas of their life. Research shows that weight loss programs and positive thinking can help them develop a healthy body image.

Being obese also increases someone’s risk of developing serious mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. In severe cases of obesity, a healthy diet and exercise aren’t enough. Weight-loss surgery, such as bariatric surgery, can help an individual lose weight.

The cause of maternal obesity and how it affects a mother’s mental health is a cycle. Obesity in pregnant women causes stress, anger, lack of sleep, and other emotional factors leading to mental illnesses. One way for mothers to cope with mental stress is binge eating which can lead to obesity.

How Does Maternal Obesity Affect a Mother's Physical Health?

Even when a person is not pregnant but obese, their physical health is at great risk, and the risks are even more significant for maternal obesity. It also increases the risk of acquiring serious medical conditions such diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers (including but not limited to mesothelioma and its stages).

According to a study, obese pregnant women who weigh more than 200 pounds are more likely to have a cesarean delivery at 39.6% compared to women who weigh below 200 pounds at 18%.

The vaginal birth success rate after cesarean is also statistically significant when comparing women who weigh less than 200 pounds to women who weigh 200 to 300 pounds and above.

Maternal obesity also imparts more chances of various risks and complications related to pregnancy. One example is hypertensive disorders. Compared to women with normal BMI, pregnant women who are considered obese increase the risk as BMI increases.

Aside from a healthy diet and exercise, several weight loss procedures can also help with obesity. For instance, Spatz3, the only adjustable gastric balloon on the market, can help patients achieve more effective weight loss results.

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