Obesity identified as significant risk factor for stillbirth

A recent study conducted in Canada has unveiled compelling evidence linking obesity to an increased risk of stillbirth, particularly as pregnancy progresses to term. Published in the prestigious Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), the findings emphasize the potential benefits of an earlier delivery date in mitigating the risk of stillbirth for expectant individuals grappling with obesity.

Lead author of the study, Naila Ramji, an assistant professor at Dalhousie University, Canada, highlighted the significance of the research by stating, “The risk thresholds for obesity-related stillbirth are notably higher than those associated with other medical conditions that elevate the risk of stillbirth.”

The research, which analyzed data from the Better Outcomes Registry and Network, encompassed a staggering 681,178 singleton births, including 1,956 stillbirths, in Ontario, Canada between 2012 and 2018. Upon adjusting for confounding factors such as diabetes and high blood pressure, the investigators discovered that individuals with class I obesity, characterized by a body mass index (BMI) of 30-34.9 kilograms per square meter (kg/m2), faced double the risk of stillbirth at 39 weeks gestation in comparison to those with a normal BMI (18.5-24.9 kg/m2).

Ramji further emphasised, “The heightened risk associated with increased BMI escalates with gestational age, culminating in a more than fourfold risk at 40 weeks.”

Moreover, the study shed light on the distribution of stillbirths before and during delivery, unveiling a heightened risk of stillbirths occurring before delivery in individuals with class I and II obesity. Ramji underscored the potential impact of these findings on patient care, stating, “Pregnant individuals with obesity, especially those with additional risk factors, may derive substantial benefit from timely referral and heightened surveillance approaching term, with additional risk factors potentially warranting earlier delivery.”