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Fetal and perinatal consequences of maternal obesity
  1. Chakrapani Vasudevan1,
  2. Mary Renfrew2,
  3. William McGuire3
  1. 1Department of Child Health, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK
  2. 2Mother and Infant Research Unit, Department of Health Sciences, University of York, York, UK
  3. 3Centre for Reviews and Dissemination, Hull York Medical School, University of York, York, UK
  1. Correspondence to William McGuire, Centre for Reviews and Dissemination, Hull York Medical School, University of York, York YO10 5DD, UK; william.mcguire{at}


In many industrialised countries, one in five women booking for antenatal care is obese. As well as affecting maternal health, maternal obesity may have important adverse consequences for fetal, neonatal and long-term health and well-being. Maternal obesity is associated with a higher risk of stillbirth, elective preterm birth and perinatal mortality. The incidence of severe birth defects, particularly neural tube and structural cardiac defects, appears to be higher in infants of obese mothers. Fetal macrosomia associated with maternal obesity and gestational diabetes predisposes infants to birth injuries, perinatal asphyxia and transitional problems such as neonatal respiratory distress and metabolic instability. Maternal obesity may also result in long-term health problems for offspring secondary to perinatal problems and to intrauterine and postnatal programming effects. Currently, the available interventions to prevent and treat maternal obesity are of limited proven utility and further research is needed to define the effects of maternal weight management interventions on fetal and neonatal outcomes.

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.