More than 60% of pregnant mums obese or overweight

Consultant obstetrician Alyson Hunter Consultant obstetrician Alyson Hunter said the problem was turning into an epidemic

More than half of women who gave birth in Belfast's Royal Jubilee Maternity Hospital last year were either obese or overweight, the BBC has learned.

Obesity is arguably one of the biggest challenges facing the health service and increasingly among pregnant women.

Last year at Jubilee Maternity, 62% of mothers were overweight with almost half of them having a Body Mass Index of over 30 meaning they were obese.

This could lead to complications with evidence of higher miscarriage rates.

An overweight mother could also suffer from high blood pressure, diabetes and thrombosis.

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There are also a greater number of caesarean operations performed on obese women and they carry more risk of developing infections following the baby's delivery.

Experts recommend that a woman puts on no more than 14 pounds during pregnancy.

Consultant obstetrician Alyson Hunter said the problem was becoming an epidemic which could have devastating consequences.

"These caesarean sections can be very difficult. You sometimes require all of the obstetrics staff that are on call, with maybe four doctors to actually access the baby," she said.

"There could be a delay in delivering the baby.

"The baby has a higher chance of being admitted to the neo-natal unit."

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