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 July 22, 2003
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Obesity and Birth Defects
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ATLANTA (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- A new study shows obese women who become pregnant are more likely to have a child with birth defects.

Researchers analyzed data from the Atlanta Birth Defects Risk Factor Surveillance Study and interviewed both obese and average-weight women. Results of the study show obese women are more likely to have an infant with a neural tube defect, especially spina bifida.

A neural tube defect occurs in the brain or spinal cord. More than 2,000 babies are born with this type of defect every year in the United States. Spina bifida is a type of neural tube defect that takes place when there is an opening of the spine. Infants with this condition need to have surgery soon after they're born to close the spine and prevent further damage.

The study also shows overweight women are more likely to have infants with heart defects. Researchers found obese women had a significantly greater risk of having a child with a condition called left ventricular outflow tract defect.

Authors of the study say the reason for the link between obesity and birth defects remains unknown. However, they believe changed metabolism in obese women may play a role. Also, the incidence of diabetes and nutritional deficits may help explain the relationship.

The prevalence of obesity continues to rise in the United States. Statistics show 12 percent of the population was obese in 1991. In 2000, nearly 20 percent of the population was reported as being obese.

This article was reported by Ivanhoe.com, who offers a searchable archive of its medical reports written since 1995. To search, go to: http://www.ivanhoe.com/search/.

SOURCE: Pediatrics, 2003;111:1152-1158

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