The Connection between Obesity and Stillbirths

Grace Lopez

Recently, a set of studies posted in “The Lancet” online showed that stillbirth rates in America may actually be linked partially to obesity. While the rates of stillbirths have declined over the years, the numbers are still far too high for some people to bear. This study was conducted to show that obesity may in fact be the top cause of the problem.

Connection between Obesity and StillbirthsWhile obesity may not be a direct cause of stillbirths, it can lead to a variety of issues that can increase a person’s risk of having a stillborn baby. For instance, obese women are more likely to have diabetes and high blood pressure, and those conditions can inevitably cause stillbirths. Even still, studies showed that obese women were more likely to have a stillborn baby than thin women, regardless of the appearance of hypertension and diabetes. Some people theorize that the lack of proper care for obese women may attribute to their risk, and that good care for obese women may be able to reduce the amount of stillbirths in the country by up to 50%.

The definition of stillborn will vary from one place to the next, but in the US, that is defined as a fetus that is 20 weeks older or more that is born without life. In some areas of the world, that definition may be more along the lines of 28 weeks. 98% of the stillbirths in the world actually occur in other, less financially stable countries, but Americans still face staggering numbers every year. Researchers say that over 27,000 stillbirths happen each year in the US alone, and over 2.6 million happen worldwide. This issue is far more ignored than it should be.

Most of the women who have stillborn babies are disadvantaged, and thus they lack the care they need to get themselves and their babies better. These women may be obese, unhealthy, or simply unfit physically to carry a baby properly. Luckily, stillborn rates have been dropping over the years, reducing from what once was 50 stillborns per 1,000 births to numbers more along the lines of 4 per 1,000 births. Those changes are great, but the numbers could be reduced even further with the right care.

This research has put a level of importance over the idea of distributing proper and affordable medical care across the country. Many of the problems that lead to stillbirths can be easily corrected with a trip to the hospital. Hopefully, time will allow more women to visit hospitals when they need to as a way to care for their babies. It is not the mother’s fault for losing a baby. It is the environment around her. These studies should provide for better environments in the future.