Most Americans are aware of the association between obesity and heart disease, heart attack, stroke, blood clots, and diabetes.  Many Americans have heard of sleep apnea and its association with obesity, which then links sleep apnea to heart disease, heart attack, stroke, blood clots, and diabetes.  Most Americans are probably not aware of sleep apnea, which is mostly associated with obesity, being linked to and now a risk factor for preterm birth.  This is especially important for women contemplating pregnancy.  Let me explain.

About 10% of births are preterm, less than 37 weeks of gestation.  Preterm birth is widely considered the greatest contributor to neonatal morbidity (chronic brain, lung, and intestinal problems) and mortality.  Most preterm births are unintended, meaning they just happen.  Some preterm births are intended, meaning a planned obstetric intervention by the doctor because the clinical situation demands it!  These clinical situations are usually because of a severe blood pressure problem in the pregnant woman.  If a preterm birth isn’t bad enough, most of these intended preterm births are by cesarean section, which is an operation that itself has more risks associated with it than a vaginal birth.

A recent large study in New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state which included 636,227 in-hospital births during 2002-2012, determined this link between sleep apnea / obesity and intended preterm birth.  In addition, sleep apnea in the mother is now also associated with a neonatal intensive care course that requires additional support for the newborn above and beyond that of an expectant mother that doesn’t have sleep apnea.

The solution?  If you are contemplating a pregnancy and you are obese, or have sleep apnea, especially if associated with obesity, do everything you can to normalize your weight before getting pregnant.  At Forge-Rx we fully grasp the significance of the obesity epidemic in America.  Join us at Forge-Rx and embrace lifestyle changes that will allow you to reduce your weight and lower your risks of preterm birth, sleep apnea, heart disease, heart attack, stroke, blood clots, and diabetes.  Your life, and your baby’s life, depend on it.

Dr. Joseph Pohl, MD

American Board of Obstetrics & Gynecology

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