The risk of preeclampsia rises with increases in body mass index before pregnancy
Rigorous analysis of data on 1,188 women pregnant with their first child with respect to body mass index (BMI) and risk of preeclampsia reveals a sharp increase in risk from a BMI of 16 to 35, according to Lisa M. Bodnar, Ph.D., MPH, R.D., a postdoctoral fellow at the Magee-Womens Research Institute.
Preeclampsia is a complication of pregnancy that is potentially life threatening to both mother and baby. It affects some 5 percent of first pregnancies. A measure of body fatness, BMI is derived by a formula using weight and height. A BMI of 25 or more is considered overweight for women. A BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese.
"The overall incidence of preeclampsia was 4.2 percent," said Dr. Bodnar. "After adjusting for other factors such as age and smoking, we found that preeclampsia risk increased along with BMI."
Compared with a BMI of 21, preeclampsia risk was two-fold for a woman with a BMI of 26, three-fold for a woman with a BMI of 30 and four-fold for a woman with a BMI of 34, she said.
"With the rate of obesity increasing in the United States, this is a worrisome development," Dr. Bodnar said. "However, our results suggest that it's possible even a small reduction in BMI could reduce preeclampsia risk."
Additional authors include Nina Markovic, Ph.D.; Gail Harger and James M. Roberts, M.D.
CONTACT: Michele D. Baum