New research claims that women who are obese when conceiving are more likely to give birth to a baby with serious birth defects.
A team of researchers from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden conducted the study, analysing data on more than 1.2 million births across the country which occurred between 2001 and 2014.
There were 43,550 babies with major congenital malformations, equivalent to 3.5 per cent of all babies.
The risk of birth defects when the mother was in the healthy weight range was 3.4 per cent. For overweight mothers, it was 3.5 per cent, while for obese mothers it was 3.8 per cent. Additionally, for higher categories of obesity it rose further, up to 4.7 per cent for the heaviest women participating in the study.
It is the first time a study has indicated babies of women who are overweight, but not obese, also have an increased risk of health problems in the first year of life.
As a result of their findings, the scientists called for women to try to get their weight within the healthy range before conception, if they are planning to become pregnant.
The authors wrote: “We found that risks of major congenital malformations [birth defects] in offspring progressively increase with maternal overweight and severity of obesity.
“This underlines the importance of having a maternal BMI in the normal range before pregnancy.
“Efforts should be made to encourage women of reproductive age to adopt a healthy lifestyle and to obtain a normal body weight before conception.”
It should be noted that the study is not conclusive, with more research needed into the area. However, it is strongly recommended by medical professionals that mothers maintain a healthy weight before, during and after pregnancy, to lower the risk of the mother or child developing health conditions.
The study was published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).