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Eating for too many - Obesity contributing to neonatal deaths, says physician

Published:Monday | June 11, 2018 | 12:02 AMNadine Wilson-Harris/Staff Reporter

One local physician is dispelling the myth that pregnant women should eat for two as obesity in pregnant women is proving to be a major risk factor for stillbirths and neonatal deaths in Jamaica.

According to obstetrician-gynaecologist Dr Nastassia Tate, obese pregnant women should not try to gain any weight at all.

“Pregnancy is not a time to eat twice as much, but twice as well,” she said during the Medical Association of Jamaica 2018 symposium at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston on the weekend.

“I have had patients who are very obese who have had significant complications in pregnancy. Gestational diabetes is a very common thing and in and of itself poses significant risk to the mother and to the foetus. You have babies who die of stillbirth because mommy had gestational diabetes or uncontrolled diabetes,” she told The Gleaner.

According to the Ministry of Health quarterly report, which was published in May, there were 524 stillbirths and 649 neonatal deaths between January to December 2017. The stillbirth rate across government hospitals for that period was 15.9/1,000 births while 20.0 neonatal deaths/1,000 live births were recorded.

Tate noted that obese pregnant women are at an increased risk for antepartum, interpartum, and postpartum complications. She said that it can lead to gestational diabetes; cardiovascular complications; clots in the legs, chest, and lungs; and increased difficulty with lactation.

“We definitely want to encourage each patient to lose weight before getting pregnant as it reduced these complications,” Tate said.

She said that while about 20 to 25 per cent of patients tend to be obese, this is likely to increase if no interventions are made to reduce the incidence of obesity.

“We do have an increased incidence or prevalence of obese patients, and they definitely pose a problem to us in terms of the antenatal period and delivery and thereafter,” she said.