Objective: To examine the prevalence across 25 years of overweight and obesity among nulliparous Australian women during early pregnancy; to estimate the proportions of adverse perinatal outcomes attributable to overweight and obesity in this population.
Design: Cohort study; retrospective analysis of electronic maternity data.
Setting, participants: 42 582 nulliparous women with singleton pregnancies giving birth at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, an urban teaching hospital in Sydney, January 1990 – December 2014.
Main outcome measures: Maternal body mass index (BMI), socio-demographic characteristics, and selected maternal, birth and neonatal outcomes; the proportion of adverse perinatal outcomes that could be averted by reducing the prevalence of overweight and obesity in women prior to first pregnancies (population attributable fraction, PAF).
Results: The prevalence of overweight among nulliparous pregnant women increased from 12.7% (1990–1994) to 16.4% (2010–2014); the prevalence of obesity rose from 4.8% to 7.3% in the same period, while the proportion with normal range BMIs fell from 73.5% to 68.2%. The PAFs for key adverse maternal and neonatal outcomes increased across the study period; during 2010–2014, 23.8% of pre-eclampsia, 23.4% of fetal macrosomia, and 17.0% of gestational diabetes were attributable to overweight and obesity. Were overweight and obese women to have moved down one BMI category during 2010–2014, 19% of pre-eclampsia, 15.9% of macrosomia, 14.2% of gestational diabetes, 8.5% of caesarean deliveries, 7.1% of low for gestational age birthweight, 6.8% of post partum haemorrhage, 6.5% of admissions to special care nursery, 5.8% of prematurity, and 3.8% of fetal abnormality could have been averted.
Conclusions: Over the past 25 years, the proportions of adverse perinatal outcomes attributable to overweight and obesity have risen with the increasing prevalence of maternal overweight and obesity. A substantial proportion of these outcomes might be averted with obesity prevention strategies that reduce pre-pregnancy maternal weight.
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