For women who are obese during pregnancy there is an associated increased risk of certain birth defects, such as spina bifida and neural tube defects, although the absolute increase in risk is likely to be small, according to an analysis of previous studies, reported in the February 11 issue of JAMA.

Obesity is a major public health and economic concern. In the United States, a third of women age 15 years and older were obese (body mass index [BMI] greater than 30) in 2004. There are significant health implications of prepregnancy maternal obesity for both mother and child. There is evidence that suggests that maternal obesity may be associated with the development of some congenital anomalies (abnormality present at birth). Congenital anomalies are a leading cause of stillbirth and infant death, accounting for 1 in 5 infant deaths in the United States, and are important contributors to preterm birth and childhood illnesses, according to background information in the article.



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