Obesity and Pregnancy

Updated: Oct 18, 2021
  • Author: Dawn M Palaszewski, MD; Chief Editor: Edward H Springel, MD, FACOG  more...
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Practice Essentials

Results from the 2017-2018 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey indicate that an estimated 31.1% of US adults aged 20 years and older are overweight (body mass index [BMI] of 25.0-29.9 kg/m2) and 42.5% have obesity (BMI, greater than or equal to 30.0 kg/m2), including 9.0% who have severe obesity (BMI, greater than or equal to 40.0 kg/m2). Among women, many of whom are of reproductive age, 26.9% are overweight, 42.1% have obesity, and 12.0% have severe obesity. The prevalence of obesity has been steadily rising in the United States. [1]

Preliminary data show that undesired weight gain has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. These data include 36 states with an obesity prevalence of over 30%, with 16 states that have a prevalence of over 35%. Rising obesity rates are one of the social determinants of health. Among women, the prevalence of obesity is 56.7% among Black women, 43.7% among Hispanic women, and 39.8% among White women. [2]

A pregnancy-specific definition of obesity has not been standardized; thus, pregnant patients are often considered obese or non-obese based on their pre-pregnancy BMI, or the BMI at the initial prenatal visit if this is unknown. Many factors contribute to the development of obesity, with lifestyle and diet being the most important. Owing to increasing prevalence, obstetric care providers will need to be well versed in the care of the pregnant patient with obesity.