New guidelines for the care of pregnant women are placing a greater focus on healthy weight and risk associated with obesity.
Announced by federal health minister Greg Hunt earlier this month, the latest guidelines recommend that health professionals have more conversations with expectant mothers about healthy weight gain, diet and exercise during pregnancy.
Australian Medical Association president and obstetrician Dr Michael Gannon has welcomed the new guidelines.
"We know that there is a linear relationship between worse outcomes for mother and baby with level of increased weight at conception and with the amount of weight gain during pregnancy, so we welcome attention on this issue," he said.
The most recent figures published by the Medical Journal of Australia show that an increased number of women were starting their pregnancy already overweight or obese.
Australian College of Midwives president Terri-Lee Barrett said this statistic highlighted a risk to both mothers and babies.
"We do know that in Australia we have an increasing problem with obesity, so there will be more women who are entering pregnancy who are sitting outside of that normal weight, healthy BMI range," she said.
"There is an increased risk of diabetes and there is an increased risk of hypertension, and they obviously then have a flow-on effect to the outcomes in terms of the baby's wellbeing.
"Should the mother develop complications during her pregnancy, they flow onto the baby. So if the mother does develop diabetes, the baby may well be larger. That can go on to give you problems with the birth process. The babies have trouble with stable blood sugars after they're born.
"Mothers who develop high blood pressure, related to perhaps their being overweight, puts them at a higher risk group for developing hypertension. Those babies don't grow so well; the placenta doesn't get the blood-flow that it needs, so those babies can be poorly growing.
"So there are a range of complications, both for the mother and the baby, that mean that a mother's weight really does impact on pregnancy outcomes," Barrett said.Do you have an idea for a story?
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