Obese Pregnant Women Use More Health Care Services than Non-Obese Pregnant Women

Obesity during pregnancy is associated with greater use of health care services and longer hospital stays, according to a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Kaiser Permanente Northwest Center for Health Research. The study, published in the April 3, 2008, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, is the first to quantitatively document the effect of obesity during pregnancy on the use of health care services.

Using data from 13,442 pregnancies that resulted in a live birth or stillbirth between 2001 and 2004, researchers found that obese pregnant women had longer hospital stays, more obstetrical ultrasounds, used more outpatient medications, and were more likely to be seen by physicians than nurse midwives and nurse practitioners compared with their normal weight counterparts. The primary reasons for the increased utilization of these services were increases in cesarean section and obesity-related high risk conditions.

“These are very important findings for women who are thinking of having children, not just because of the increased costs of obesity and pregnancy, but also because of the increased health risks for mother and baby,” says Mark Hornbrook, PhD., an author on the study and chief scientist at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore. “If obese women can lose weight before they become pregnant, it will help them avoid complicated and costly procedures during their pregnancies.”