Maternal overweight and obesity: where to from here?

David A Ellwood and Leonie K Callaway
Med J Aust 2018; 208 (3): . || doi: 10.5694/mja17.01128
Published online: 19 February 2018

It is time to examine how the health of young women can be improved prior to pregnancy

The report by Cheney and colleagues in this issue of the MJA clearly shows the increasing contribution by the effects of overweight and obesity during pregnancy to adverse perinatal outcomes.1 The authors analysed pregnancy outcomes at a large teaching hospital in central Sydney, and found that the population attributable fractions (PAFs) of pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, and fetal macrosomia associated with overweight and obesity (defined by maternal body mass index [BMI] categories) have risen significantly during the past 25 years. As troubling as these findings are, it is worth noting that nearly 80% of the study population had BMIs in the low or normal ranges. However, in the parts of Australia where overweight and obesity are more prevalent, intertwined with socio-economic disadvantage, the PAF associated with overweight and obesity will be higher. Cheney and her co-authors also report interesting trends in their nulliparous population with respect to other risk factors for adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as increasing age and falling smoking rates, and changes in the ethnic profile and dramatic improvements in socio-economic status of the hospital catchment area. The authors modelled the impact of reducing the overall BMI category distribution of first-time mothers, and the prospective improvements in outcomes are remarkable, suggesting that pre-pregnancy weight loss interventions need to be a priority for improving perinatal health.

  • David A Ellwood1,2
  • Leonie K Callaway3,4

  • 1 Griffith University, Gold Coast, QLD
  • 2 Gold Coast University Hospital, Gold Coast, QLD
  • 3 Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, Brisbane, QLD
  • 4 University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD


Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.


remove_circle_outline Delete Author
add_circle_outline Add Author

Do you have any competing interests to declare? *

I/we agree to assign copyright to the Medical Journal of Australia and agree to the Conditions of publication *
I/we agree to the Terms of use of the Medical Journal of Australia *
Email me when people comment on this article

Online responses are no longer available. Please refer to our instructions for authors page for more information.