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In the past 25 years the number of first time mothers in Australia who are overweight or obese in early pregnancy has been rising at an alarming rate. In a study of more than 40,000 women who gave birth to their first child between 1990 and 2014 at a Sydney hospital, researchers compared the mothers’ weight and outcomes of the births that occurred 1990-1994 and 2010-2014.


They found that in the 1990s one out of six new mothers was overweight or obese in early pregnancy but twenty years later this had increased to be almost one out of four. Apart from the negative effects of being overweight on the mothers’ health, it also increases the risk of pregnancy complications. The study showed that as the number of overweight mothers increased so did pregnancy complications including:

  •  a serious condition where the woman gets high blood pressure, protein in the urine and swollen hands and feet (pre-eclampsia)
  •  pregnancy-related (gestational) diabetes and
  •  having a baby that weighs more than 4000 grams at birth (fetal macrosomia) which can cause health problems.


The researchers conclude that prevention strategies to reduce pre-pregnancy weight could reduce the number of serious pregnancy complications.

While losing weight can be very difficult it’s good to know that even a modest weight loss improves the chance of having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. For more information go to



Cheney K, Farber R, Barratt A, McGeechan K, de Vries B, Ogle R, Black K. Population attributable fractions of perinatal outcomes for nulliparous women associated with overweight and obesity, 1990–2014. Med J Aust 2018;208: 119-125.

Obesity Fertility Weight Health Pregnancy