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Scotland: Worry as rates of obesity in pregnancy rise

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one in four expectant women are now obese One in four expectant women are now classified as obese

Concern has been raised, after a new report has found that maternal obesity in Scotland has continued to rise.

The report, Births in Scottish Hospitals Year ending 31 March 2019, found that more than half (52.7%) of expectant women were overweight or obese compared with 48.5% in 2010/11. Furthermore, one in four expectant women are now classified as obese. This has been linked to continued increases in caesarean sections, with one in three (33.5%) live singleton babies delivered by caesarean section, the highest proportion since reporting began.

‘The increase in caesarean section rates across Scotland is of concern, as it is higher than most other areas in the UK and significantly higher than the level recommended as optimal by the World Health Organisation. This rise is likely to be linked to the rising rate of obesity and maternal age, but of course there are many reasons why the caesarean rate could be increasing such as women who are pregnant with twins and other multiples, along with changes in clinical guidance around responding to women reporting reduced fetal movements,’ said Dr Mary Ross-Davie, Director for Scotland at the Royal College of Midwives.

‘The rates of increasing maternal obesity are worrying as we know that obese mothers have a greater risk of experiencing complications like diabetes and high blood pressure and this increases the risk for the baby in terms of their growth, a higher rate of prematurity and other complications.’

More encouragingly, the report found that fewer women now smoke in pregnancy, continuing the downward trend. Around one in seven (14.6%) expectant women were current smokers at the time of their antenatal booking appointment, the lowest since reporting began. In comparison, around one in three (31%) expectant women were current smokers in 1997/98.

‘It’s encouraging to see fewer women are not smoking during pregnancy, but a lot more work needs to be done in this area and we need more smoking cessation midwives to properly support women to stop smoking,’ added Dr Ross-Davie.

‘We know that higher rates of smoking and obesity are closely linked to wider social and financial inequalities in Scotland. As a country there is much we can do, not just in maternity services, but much wider across society in other ways, such as education in schools, focusing on positive preconception care, advice and support, the reduction of poverty and social exclusion and a real focus on improving the health of everyone in our communities.’

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