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Obese Moms More Likely to Have Babies With Birth Defects
Date:2/10/2009

But researchers note risk is still small and pounds can be shed before conception

TUESDAY, Feb. 10 (HealthDay News) -- If you're planning on becoming pregnant, a new study suggests that you should try to shed any extra weight you're carrying before conception.

That's because babies born to obese mothers are more likely to have serious birth defects.

"We found that being obese in pregnancy can increase a woman's risk of having a range of birth defects," said study senior author Judith Rankin, a reader in maternal and perinatal epidemiology at Newcastle University in Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom.

"A further finding is that women who are overweight may also be at an increased risk, although the research evidence is not so clear and further work is needed," she noted.

Results of the study were published in the Feb. 11 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

It's long been known that obesity in pregnancy can lead to gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, an increased risk of blood clots, a higher risk of infection and an increased risk of Cesarean delivery. Babies born to obese mothers are at risk of being too large and have an increased risk of perinatal death.

Maternal obesity has also been linked to the development of congenital anomalies, such as neural tube defects, spina bifida, heart defects, cleft lip and palate, and anencephaly (a defect in brain development). Birth defects are a leading cause of still birth and infant mortality, causing as many as one in five infant deaths in the United States, according to background information in the study.

To better assess this association, Rankin and her colleagues reviewed nearly 2,000 studies that included information on pre-pregnancy or early pregnancy weight and birth defects. They included 39 studies in their review.

Together, the pooled risk of having a baby with a neural tube defe
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