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Obesity in pregnancy

December 8th, 2014 | Blog | Tags:

The British Medical Journal has published an article from Sweden reporting on the impact of maternal obesity on infant mortality.

The principal author, Stefan Johansson, and his team were able to analyse almost 2,000,000 live births in Sweden from 1992 to 2010.

This is clearly a high quality study looking at a whole population outcome. The information gained from the study is highly likely to be relevant to comparable populations in industrialised nations.

Healthy eating

Healthy eating is important and yummy!

The study showed a clear relationship between increasing maternal weight and infant mortality.

Key results

The measure of maternal weight was body mass index (BMI). This is a measure calculated by comparing weight and height. Normal BMI is about 20-25 and as this number increases the person being measured moves through the categories of overweight, obese and then morbidly obese over, say, 40.

In women with a normal BMI (18.5 to 24.9), infant mortality was 2.4 deaths per thousand births.

This risk is known as baseline risk and it is given an Odds Ratio (OR) of 1.0. So, this is the normal risk for a woman of normal or recommended weight.

As women became heavier, with higher BMIs, the risk to the baby increases.

Overweight women (BMI 25.0 to 29.9) have an OR 1.25 which converts to a 25% increase in infant mortality.

Obesity grade 1 (BMI 30.0 to 34.9) with an OR of 1.37 has a 37% increase in infant mortality.

Obesity grade 2 (BMI 35.02 39.9) with an OR 2.11 has double the rate of infant mortality.

Obesity grade 3 (BMI greater than 40.0) with an OR 2.44 has a 244% increase in infant mortality compared to normal baseline.


The causes of death in infants included premature births, birth asphyxia, sudden infant death, congenital abnormalities and multiple other complications of birth and the postnatal period.

The authors concluded that being overweight, in particular being obese, increased the risks of infant mortality both by increasing mortality in full-term births and with an increased prevalence of pre-term births.

One of the elements of The Babysleep Doctor strategy is an emphasis upon healthy eating. As the BMJ article demonstrates, the data continues to accumulate that appropriate body weight and associated healthy eating choices show benefit to both the mother and the unborn child. We have developed significant resources on the website to assist in guiding towards healthy food choices.

If planning to conceive, one of the things to consider and to discuss within the family is eating choices, physical activity and body weight. The choices which you make before conception and during pregnancy may have significant impacts upon the well-being of the baby and ultimately the family unit.

Best wishes

Sleep well

Dr Brian Symon

The Babysleep Doctor

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