Obesity is a growing problem in sub-Saharan Africa. This region of the world is already host to one of the highest infant-mortality rates in the world, and now the increasing rates of obesity have been linked to an even greater risk of neonatal death.
According to a new study published in The Lancet, researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine analyzed over 81,000 singleton pregnancies from 27 countries in sub-Saharan Africa from 2003 to 2009 compared to the mother's body mass index (BMI).
In the study, an obese mother had nearly a 50% greater chance of her baby dying in the first 4 weeks of life, with the highest risk in the first 2 days of life (62% greater risk for obese women and 32% higher for overweight women as compared to women of optimum weight). The increased risks held, even when the researchers adjusted for known risk factors like maternal age, educational level, and birth order.
We already know obesity poses a risk in affluent countries. Unfortunately, the risks seem even greater in these developing nations. Estimates suggest that as many as 25% of adults in sub-Saharan Africa will be obese by 2030. Health care workers in the areas must be aware of the increased risk to new obese mothers--a phenomenon that is very new to the region.
If obesity rates continue to rise worldwide, many of our efforts to decrease risk of stillbirth could be negated.
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