By Paul Purcell
Obese pregnant women undergoing caesareans are stretching Australia and New Zealand's hospital systems, with their procedures costing extra time and money according to new research.
A new study across Australia and New Zealand found hospitals operating on obese or very obese pregnant women were using an additional eight to 18 minutes of anaesthesia for caesarean sections.
That burden amounts to an increase of 10 to 25 percent, at $25 per minute for hospitals.
On average, the operation time of a pregnant woman with normal weight is around 72 minutes.
This increases by 10 percent for obese women (BMI 35-45) and 25 percent by very obese (BMI 45 plus), with this group accounting for around a third of all women in the MUM SIZE study.
The fundamental aim of the study, undertaken by the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA), was to increase understanding of the best ways to care and plan for women giving by caesarean.
"Women with increased body size are more likely to have a caesarean delivery," lead investigator professor David Story said.
"Maternal obesity is associated with increased hospital care and has important operating room planning and resource implications for hospitals with maternity services."
Experts estimate around a third of all people across Australia and New Zealand are obese, with an increasing number being severely or morbidly obese.
But excess weight is not just an issue for pregnant women.
ANZCA president Dr Genevieve Goulding said obesity has become one of the biggest issues for anaesthetists in managing their patients over the last 20 years.
Health problems associated with obesity such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and sleep apnoea can all compromise surgeries.