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Fears for obese mothers-to-be

Only around 40 per cent of expectant mothers were at a healthy weight
Only around 40 per cent of expectant mothers were at a healthy weight

A quarter of pregnant women in Wigan borough are obese at the time of their first screening, new data has revealed.

Health professionals have warned women could be putting both their own and their baby’s health at risk by not losing weight before getting pregnant.

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According to figures from NHS Digital, around 2,820 women were weighed at their first antenatal booking appointment with Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) in the 12 months to April 2018.

Of these, 25 per cent had a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above, placing them in the obese range.

A further 30 per cent were deemed overweight, with a BMI of 25 or over, putting the borough’s soon-to-be mothers among the most overweight in England.

When the number of underweight women is taken into account, the figures mean only around 40 per cent of expectant mothers seen by the trust were considered to be at a healthy weight.

According to both the NHS and the Royal College of Midwives, obese women are more at risk of a range of complications during pregnancy and childbirth.

Across England, almost half of women were heavier than advised at their booking appointment. Just over 21 per cent were obese, while more than 27 per cent were overweight.

Tam Fry, spokesman for National Obesity Forum, said: “A woman unhealthily overweight at booking in can not only be a health risk for her foetus but also for herself.

“The increasing number of babies being born already obese is also very concerning.”

A WWL spokesman said staff calculate the BMI of all pregnant women and do risk assessments, using the information to plan their care.

He continued: “The care planning also includes the offer of additional testing and monitoring of both mother and baby.

“Midwives provide advice and support to all mothers on the importance of eating a healthy balanced diet and under taking gentle exercise such as walking or attending aqua-natal exercise sessions for 30 minutes three times per week.

“The maternity service works collaboratively with Inspiring Healthy Lifestyles and specialist weight management services to provide support to achieve a healthy balanced diet and promote the undertaking of exercise so that following pregnancy and birth new mothers are able to sustain lifestyle changes, thus reducing the risk for subsequent pregnancies.”

Prof Kate Ardern, director of public health at Wigan Council, said: “As part of Lose Weight Feel Great, the maternity pathway within the specialist weight management service offers individual sessions for women with a BMI over 30, with a specialist physiotherapist and a dietitian for the duration of their pregnancy and also after baby is born.

“Pregnant women can access the service directly but the majority are referred by their midwife. The aim is to support women to control weight gain during pregnancy, promoting healthy diet changes and encouraging appropriate activity for mother and baby. The support is tailored to the mother’s needs. It’s not about telling mothers what to do.”