It is common knowledge that smoking and drinking alcohol in excess can lead to damaging effects during pregnancy, parents are warned of the risks involved throughout and before the birth of their child. In 2003 the Royal College of Midwives recognised it is the midwives duty to provide help and information to pregnant women who smoke. They introduced a guide on how to help mothers quit smoking, the guide faces issues such as how to approach the mother about smoking and how to encourage them to stop smoking. Smoking can increase the chances of a spontaneous abortion, placenta praevia and also a low birth weight. Low birth weight can also cause diseases and disabilities later on such as heart problems, respiratory infections and it has also been linked to slow cognitive development (Health Committee Parliament Great Britain House of Commons, 2005).
There are also many reasons why women are advised not to drink alcohol whilst pregnant as it can also cause damaging effects to the unborn child. When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol the alcohol easily reaches the foetus, consuming an equal amount of alcohol to the mother in their blood stream. Due to the foetus bodily functions being so small and immature it cannot detoxify as quick as the mother can, so the alcohol remains in the bloodstream of the baby for a longer period of time. This puts the baby at risk of mental and physical defects such as foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) which can cause the baby to be born handicapped and in need of long term care. The list of drinking too much alcohol whilst pregnant is endless, some are the same as smoking, others include organ deformities, slow growth development and poor co-ordination (Edlin & Golanty, 2011).
Lynne (2004) suggested that women who are obese will have a higher risk of complications during pregnancy such as hypertensive diagnoses and gestational diabetes. There will also be complications during the delivery of the baby, they may need a caesarean section and time of delivery can also be prolonged. Bhattacharya et al (2007) conducted a retrospective cohort study focusing on pregnant women at a range of different weights categorised according to body mass index (BMI). They looked at women in Aberdeen between 1976 and 2005 to see if there were any relationships between obesity and pregnancy complications. Results found that women in the morbidly obese category were of highest risk of pre-eclampsia and underweight women the lowest. Morbidly obese women were also more likely to have an induced labour than any other category. They were also highest in emergency caesareans and more likely to have a postpartum haemorrhage. The heaviest baby was also found in the morbidly obese category and the lightest in the underweight. Results concluded that underweight women had better pregnancy outcomes than women with a normal BMI.
Obesity in relation to pregnancy should be tackled more seriously, smoking and alcohol interventions are already in place however, obesity is seen as less harmful. As evidence suggests not only are obese women having more complicated births which are coming at a high cost but they are also having overweight babies. Some of which are gaining a preference over the food they eat when born, in a way some of these babies are being born with unhealthy schemas.
Health Committee Parliament Great Britain House of Commons (2005). The Government’s Public Health White Paper (CM6374): Written Evidence, Medical, The Stationary Office, 204-205.
Edlin, G., &, Golanty, E. (2011). Human Sexuality: The Basics, Psychology, Jones & Bartlett Publishers.
Lynne, Y. (2004). Effects of obesity on women’s reproduction and complications during pregnancy, Obesity reviews, (5), 3, 137-143, doi: 10.1111/j.1467-789X.2004.00147.x
Bhattacharya, S., Campbell, D. M., Liston, W. A., &, Bhattacharya, S. (2007). Effect of Body Mass Index on pregnancy outcomes in nulliparous women delivering singleton babies, BMC Public Health, (7) 168, doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-168.