News

Weight worries for mums-to-be

Being seriously overweight during pregnancy increases dangers for both mother and unborn child, but little is done to help obese mums-to-be, says a leading Teesside University researcher.

More information
Dr Nicola Heslehurst, from Teesside University’s Health and Social Care Institute.

Dr Nicola Heslehurst, from Teesside University’s Health and Social Care Institute.


Dr Nicola Heslehurst, from Teesside University’s Health and Social Care Institute, led a team of academics from the universities of Teesside, Newcastle and Durham looking at the provision of clinical and support services for obese pregnant women.

They found that maternal obesity has more than doubled over the last two decades with one in six pregnant women now facing extra risks to themselves and their babies.

More than half the women who die in pregnancy or childbirth are obese or overweight and being seriously overweight increases the likelihood of conditions such as cardiac disease, diabetes and pre-eclampsia and can be a contributing factor in stillbirth, congenital anomalies and prematurity.

Little is being done nationally
'But very little is being done nationally to support women in achieving a healthy weight before bearing children,' says Dr Heslehurst, whose study of births around the country was published in the International Journal of Obesity. 'Despite the potential risks, there is no strategic public information campaign.'

Her study found wide regional variations for maternal obesity, ranging from just over 13% in London to nearly 22% in the West Midlands.

'Once obese women become pregnant there are still things they can do to minimise the potential for complications for themselves and their babies, such as healthy eating and moderate levels of physical activity,' says Dr Heslehurst.

In joint research funded by Public Health North East and published in the journal Midwifery, Nicola’s team found improvements to obesity services at North East maternity units over the last four years.

The main advances related to health and safety, such as the provision of more suitable equipment, including sturdier beds and operating tables.

However, the lack of services to help mothers tackle their weight problems had still not been addressed, and there was a lack of partnership working between public health and maternity services. No weight gain guidelines were in place, for example.

'Mothers were being told they were putting their babies at risk and were then left to deal with it themselves, largely due to a lack of national guidelines for this type of advice and support for women,' says Dr Heslehurst.

The lack of weight management services and weight gain guidance made it difficult for midwives to discuss obesity with women during pregnancy. 'Midwives seek to build up a good relationship with women and they struggle to know how to initiate discussion with them about their weight as it is such a sensitive issue,' says Dr Heslehurst.

Urgent need for obesity training for midwives
'There is an urgent need for obesity training for midwives and better communication between the public health and maternity services,' she says.

Lessons could be learned from the development of smoking cessation services during pregnancy, she suggests. Midwives participating in the study felt that the national drive for smoking cessation with its structured training, support and funding had worked successfully, whereas previous local initiatives without that level of strategic support.

Notes
The two journals publishing Dr Heslehurst’s research mentioned in the release were:
Heslehurst, N., Rankin, J., Wilkinson, J.R., Summerbell, C.D. (2010) A Nationally Representative Study of Maternal Obesity in England, UK: Trends in Incidence and Demographic Inequalities in 619 323 Births, 1989-2007. International Journal of Obesity; 34: 420-428

Heslehurst, N., Moore, H., Rankin, J., Ells, L.J., Wilkinson, J.R., Summerbell, C.D. How can maternity services be developed to effectively address maternal obesity? A qualitative study Midwifery 2010 advance online publication, doi: 10.1016/j.midw.2010.01.007

21 March 2011

In the News

Study highlights lack of obesity training for midwives
The Practising Midwife, 01/05/2011, p.10
Teesside University researchers studied the provision of clinical and support services for obese pregnant women and found that there is very little help for seriously overweight mums-to-be.


Blooming marvellous
The Villager (Virginia Water), 01/04/2011, p.24
Research led by Dr Nicola Heslehurst of Teesside University led has found that little is being done to help obese mums-to-be. More than half of women who die in pregnancy are obese and maternal obesity has more than doubled in the past twenty years.


Obese Mums Need Action
Evening Gazette (Teesside), 05/04/2011, p.16; Gazette Live (Web), 05/04/2011
Research from Teesside University led by Dr Nicola Heslehurst has found that little is being done to help obese mums-to-be.


Need for vitamins in pregnant woman
Health Food Business, 01/05/2011, p.12
A team of Teesside University researchers led by Dr Nicola Heslehurst has found that obese mums-to-be do not have enough support.


Babies at risk from obesity rise in mothers
Daily Mail, 04/04/2011, p.12; Scottish Daily Express (Web), 03/04/2011; Sunday Express (Lancashire), 03/04/2011, p.12; The Sunday Express, 03/04/2011, p.12; Yahoo! India (Web), 03/04/2011; Indian Mirror (Web), 03/04/2011; IndiaVision (Web), 04/04/2011;
A report compiled by Teesside, Durham and Newcastle University researchers has found that 100,000 babies a year are at risk due to the increase of obesity amongst young, pregnant mothers.


Study into obesity and motherhood
TFM, 27/03/2011; Magic 1170, 27/03/2011
There are calls for more support to help women shed extra pounds during pregnancy. A study from Teesside University shows that maternal obesity has doubled over the last two decades. This obesity can put the health of mothers and babies at risk.


Weight worries for mothers-to-be
Science Daily (Web), 24/03/2011; News-Medical.Net (Web), 24/03/2011; Medical News Today (Web), 24/03/2011; FemaleFirst.co.uk (Web) , 24/03/2011; Englemed Health News (Web), 26/03/2011; World Book and News (Web), 26/03/2011
Teesside University's Dr Nicola Heslehurst led a team of academics from the universities of Teesside, Newcastle and Durham to look at maternal obesity.