The prevalence and impact of overweight and obesity in an Australian obstetric population

Leonie K Callaway, Allan M Chang, H David McIntyre and Johannes B Prins
Med J Aust 2006; 184 (2): 56-59.


Objective: To assess the prevalence and impact of overweight and obesity in an Australian obstetric population.

Design, setting and participants: The Mater Mother’s Hospital (MMH), South Brisbane, is an urban tertiary referral maternity hospital. We reviewed data for the 18 401 women who were booked for antenatal care at the MMH, delivered between January 1998 and December 2002, and had a singleton pregnancy. Of those women, 14 230 had an estimated pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI) noted in their record; 2978 women with BMI ≤ 20 kg/m2 were excluded from further study; the remaining 11 252 women were divided into four categories: “normal” (BMI 20.01–25 kg/m2), “overweight” (BMI 25.01–30 kg/m2), “obese” (BMI 30.01–40 kg/m2) and “morbidly obese” (BMI > 40 kg/m2).

Main outcome measures: Prevalence of overweight and obesity in an obstetric population; maternal, peripartum and neonatal outcomes associated with raised BMI.

Results: Of the 14 230 women, 6443 (45%) were of normal weight, and 4809 (34%) were overweight, obese or morbidly obese. Overweight, obese and morbidly obese women were at increased risk of adverse outcomes (figures represent adjusted odds ratio [AOR] [95% CI]): hypertensive disorders of pregnancy (overweight 1.74 [1.45–2.15], obese 3.00 [2.40–3.74], morbidly obese 4.87 [3.27–7.24]); gestational diabetes (overweight 1.78 [1.25–2.52], obese 2.95 [2.05–4.25], morbidly obese 7.44 [4.42–12.54]); hospital admission longer than 5 days (overweight 1.36 [1.13–1.63], obese 1.49 [1.21–1.86], morbidly obese 3.18 [2.19–4.61]); and caesarean section (overweight 1.50 [1.36–1.66], obese 2.02 [1.79–2.29], morbidly obese 2.54 [1.94–3.32]). Neonates born to obese and morbidly obese women had an increased risk of birth defects (obese 1.58 [1.02–2.46], morbidly obese 3.41 [1.67–6.94]); and hypoglycaemia (obese 2.57 [1.39–4.78], morbidly obese 7.14 [3.04–16.74]). Neonates born to morbidly obese women were at increased risk of admission to intensive care (2.77 [1.81–4.25]); premature delivery (< 34 weeks’ gestation) (2.13 [1.13–4.01]); and jaundice (1.44 [1.09–1.89]).

Conclusions: Overweight and obesity are common in pregnant women. Increasing BMI is associated with maternal and neonatal outcomes that may increase the costs of obstetric care. To assist in planning health service delivery, we believe that BMI should be routinely recorded on perinatal data collection sheets.

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  • Leonie K Callaway1
  • Allan M Chang2
  • H David McIntyre3
  • Johannes B Prins4

  • 1 Mater Hospital, South Brisbane, QLD.
  • 2 Department of Diabetes and Endocrinology, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Woolloongabba, QLD.



We would like to thank Ms Liz Hollingshead, Information Management Officer, MMH, for assistance in accessing the data for our study. Leonie Callaway is the recipient of a National Health and Medical Research Council Postgraduate Medical Scholarship.

Competing interests:

None identified.

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