Obesity and pregnancy: mechanisms of short term and long term adverse consequences for mother and child

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Abstract

Obesity is the most common medical condition in women of reproductive age. Obesity during pregnancy has short term and long term adverse consequences for both mother and child. Obesity causes problems with infertility, and in early gestation it causes spontaneous pregnancy loss and congenital anomalies. Metabolically, obese women have increased insulin resistance in early pregnancy, which becomes manifest clinically in late gestation as glucose intolerance and fetal overgrowth. At term, the risk of cesarean delivery and wound complications is increased. Postpartum, obese women have an increased risk of venous thromboembolism, depression, and difficulty with breast feeding. Because 50-60% of overweight or obese women gain more than recommended by Institute of Medicine gestational weight guidelines, postpartum weight retention increases future cardiometabolic risks and prepregnancy obesity in subsequent pregnancies. Neonates of obese women have increased body fat at birth, which increases the risk of childhood obesity. Although there is no unifying mechanism responsible for the adverse perinatal outcomes associated with maternal obesity, on the basis of the available data, increased prepregnancy maternal insulin resistance and accompanying hyperinsulinemia, inflammation, and oxidative stress seem to contribute to early placental and fetal dysfunction. We will review the pathophysiology underlying these data and try to shed light on the specific underlying mechanisms.

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