NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Obesity has been linked to higher odds of several pregnancy complications, and a new study shows that the risks apply to teenagers as well as adults.
In a study of teenage first-time mothers who gave birth at one urban hospital, researchers found that obese girls were at greater risk of developing diabetes during pregnancy or requiring a cesarean section during delivery.
In the past, some of the main concerns with teenage expectant mothers have been their tendency toward poor nutrition and inadequate weight gain during pregnancy.
However, the increasing rate of teen obesity may "warrant a change in our focus to include risks associated specifically with obesity," the researchers report in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.
For the study, Dr. Sina Haeri of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and colleagues reviewed the records of 458 teenagers who gave birth at one Washington, D.C., hospital over four years. Most of the mothers were African American.
Overall, the study found, girls who were obese before pregnancy were four times more likely than their normal-weight counterparts to develop gestational diabetes -- a form of diabetes that arises during pregnancy and raises a woman's risk of developing type 2 diabetes later on.
Obese girls were also about four times more likely to need a C-section delivery, which echoes findings from studies of adult women. The high C-section rate is particularly concerning in young girls, Haeri and her colleagues note, given their higher risk of post-operative problems, such as infection.
The findings, according to the researchers, underscore the importance of preventing teen obesity, and highlight a need for research into the optimal weight range for pregnant teenagers.
SOURCE: Obstetrics & Gynecology, February 2009.