Intermountain Health logo

Please enter the city or town where you'd like to find care.

Get care nowMake an appointmentSign in

Health news and blog

Effects from Obesity When Starting A Pregnancy

Effects from Obesity When Starting A Pregnancy

By Dani Kurtz

Apr 18, 2017

Updated Nov 17, 2023

5 min read


Obesity increases a woman’s chances of having a complicated pregnancy and delivery, thus putting her and her baby at risk. Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater, and the higher the BMI is, the higher the risk. Obesity is an epidemic that has OB providers and caregivers concerned. For example, in 1980, only seven percent of women weighed over 200 pounds at their first prenatal appointment and by 2014, 34 percent of women were considered obese at their first prenatal appointment.

RELATED: Eating for Two? How this phrase can lead to a healthy pregnancy?

What risks are associated with maternal obesity?

  • Infertility
  • Miscarriage
  • Congenital anomalies (including spina bifida, heart abnormalities, and cleft palate)
  • Stillbirth
  • Preeclampsia
  • Preterm and post-term delivery
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Large for gestational age babies

If a baby is abnormally large, it increases the chances of complications at birth, including the need for a c-section. If an obese woman does needs a c-section, she is at higher risk for infection and blood clots afterwards.

Other risks include: carpal tunnel syndrome, postpartum depression, and sleep-related breathing disorders. The baby is also at risk for being obese during his/her childhood and into adulthood.

What can a woman do to prevent these risks?

All women thinking about having a baby should make a preconception appointment with their doctor. This gives the doctor an opportunity to identify things that need to be managed—like obesity, hypertension and diabetes—before the woman conceives so that she and her baby can be as healthy as possible. If the woman’s BMI is high, the doctor can help the woman identify a healthy goal weight and outline steps she can take to reach that goal before conceiving.

This applies to women who are having their first baby as well as subsequent babies. It’s important to lose baby weight before getting pregnant again.

For more tips on healthy pregnancies and babies, visit Intermountain Moms.