Healthcare News & Insights

Tipping the scales in the maternity ward

The rise in obesity is creating additional complications for one branch of medicine in particular.

As more Americans reach even higher levels of obesity, more expectant mothers are finding their additional weight is a strain not only on them, but on their doctors’ and hospitals’ capabilities, as well.

Many hospitals have had to buy sturdier equipment, including wider, stronger beds and longer surgical instruments to get through the layers of fat. In addition, when working with morbidly obese maternity patients, doctors have to perform more detailed tests (using more expensive equipment) earlier in the pregnancy — both because of the potential risks to mother and baby, and because they’ll lose the ability to adequately perform some tests as the pregnancy progresses and the mother’s size increases.

While those tests and extra equipment are expensive, the highest costs are borne by the mother and baby — both face a variety of significantly increased health risks.

Some hospitals are considering opening special units dedicated to treating obese maternity patients. Along with standard obstetric care, the units would provide nutritional counseling. Other services would include emergency C-sections and neo-natal intensive care.

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