Stillbirths may be linked to pregnancy weight gain

  • 03/12/2015

The rate of stillbirths and children dying before their first birthday is significantly higher in mothers who gain weight between pregnancies, new research has revealed.

The research released today examined more than 450,000 Swedish women which illustrated an incremental increase in the risk of stillbirth with weight gain between pregnancies.

Mothers who gained more than four BMI units, or around 11 kilograms for a women of average height, between their first and second pregnancies had a 50 percent higher chance of their babies being stillborn.

Even modest weight gains, around six kilograms, by the time of a second pregnancy increased risk of babies dying in their first year by 30 percent.

Meanwhile, babies of women who lost even a small amount of weight (around seven kilograms or more) before becoming pregnant again had a 50 percent survival rate.

Auckland University professor Lesley McCowan said while the reduction of stillbirth rates has not been encouraging, monitoring weight gain may be a way to reduce stillbirth and neonatal death substantially.

"The benefits of preventing weight gain between pregnancies may be even more important in New Zealand where rates of stillbirth are higher than in Sweden," she said.

"While the risk for an individual woman is low the potential impact for a population of these findings is significant."

Obesity has reached epidemic levels in places such as South Auckland where more than 40 per cent of mothers are classified as overweight or obese.