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Maternal Obesity, Mode of Delivery, and Neonatal Outcome

Blomberg, Marie MD, PhD

doi: 10.1097/AOG.0b013e318295657f
Original Research

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate whether adverse neonatal outcome, defined as birth injuries or severe illnesses in the newborn, was associated with maternal body mass index (BMI) in singleton pregnancies overall and depending on mode of delivery.

METHODS: This was a cohort study including 1,024,471 women. Data were collected from the Swedish Medical Birth Registry. Women were categorized into six classes of BMI. Obese women were compared with normal weight women regarding adverse neonatal outcome after suitable adjustments. Four modes of delivery were evaluated: vaginal delivery; instrumental vaginal delivery; elective cesarean delivery; and emergency cesarean delivery.

RESULTS: Compared with neonates born to women of normal weight, neonates born to women with BMIs of 40 or more (morbidly obese) were at increased risk of birth injury to the peripheral nervous system (odds ratio [OR] 3.80, 95% confidence interval [CI] 2.83–5.12; 0.2% compared with 0.6%), birth injury to the skeleton (OR 2.59, 95% CI 2.10–3.21; 0.5% compared with 1.1%), respiratory distress syndrome (OR 2.08, 95% CI 1.88–2.30; 2.9 compared with 5.8%), bacterial sepsis (OR 2.90, 95% CI 2.43–3.46; 0.6% compared with 1.7%), convulsions (OR 3.43, 95% CI 2.63–4.47; 0.2% compared with 0.8%), and hypoglycemia (OR 3.48, 95% CI 3.20–3.78; 2.4% compared with 7.9%). For morbidly obese women, elective cesarean delivery and vaginal delivery were associated with twice the increased risk of adverse neonatal outcomes when compared with women of normal weight.

CONCLUSION: Neonates born to morbidly obese women are at markedly increased risk of adverse neonatal outcome regardless of mode of delivery. Obstetricians should not disregard the neonatal problems associated with elective cesarean delivery for morbidly obese women.


Morbidly obese women are at increased risk of adverse neonatal outcomes regardless of mode of delivery.

Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Linköping University, and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, County Council of Östergötland, Linköping, Sweden.

Corresponding author: Dr. Marie Blomberg, MD, PhD, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, County Council of Östergötland, SE-581 85 Linköping, Sweden; e-mail:

Supported by the Östergötland County Council.

Financial Disclosure The author did not report any potential conflicts of interest.

The author thanks the National Board of Health and Social Welfare, Stockholm, for access to the health registers.

© 2013 by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.