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Obesity During Pregnancy Carries Bigger Price Tag
Date:4/2/2008

Study finds the extra health-care costs strain the system

WEDNESDAY, April 2 (HealthDay News) -- It is well-known that obesity increases the chances of medical complications during pregnancy, but now a new study shows it also puts a financial strain on the health-care system.

Obese women who are pregnant tend to have longer hospital stays, require more medications, and spend more time with their doctors than normal-weight women do. Much of this is due to complications such as high blood pressure, preeclampsia and Caesarean deliveries, researchers find.

"Right now, about one in five women in the United States who deliver babies are obese," said lead researcher Susan Y. Chu, a senior epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Given that there are about 4 million births in the United States each year, that translates to almost 1 million obese women giving birth."

"Obesity during pregnancy is associated with more use of health-care services," Chu said. "Even if there is a small increase, it is going to have substantial financial implications."

The report is published in the April 3 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

In the study, Chu's team collected data on 13,442 pregnancies that occurred from 2000 to 2004. These births were recorded by a large managed-care system. The researchers looked at the relationship between obesity and the use of health-care services before and during pregnancy.

Chu's group found that obese women have significantly longer hospital stays compared with normal-weight women. For most obese women, a hospital stay was 4.1 days longer than it was for normal-weight women.

The increased hospital stays were mostly related to more Caesarean deliveries among obese women than normal-weight women, Chu said.

In addition, obese women required more prenatal tests, more ultrasound examinations and more medication
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