Impacts of obesity on the health of women of childbearing age: A call for action
Background: Obesity is a leading preventable cause of death worldwide with higher prevalence among women of childbearing age than men. It is a clinical condition characterized by accumulation of excess body fat with resultant high health challenges and reduced life expectancy. It is an emerging problem in Nigeria especially among women of childbearing age due to its negative effects on their reproductive life; hence it needs to be addressed to reduce the incidence of infertility, as well as maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality.
Aim: To identify the impacts of obesity on the health of women of childbearing age for improved knowledge on its prevention and management.
Methods: Data from textbooks, original and online journals and published articles were reviewed, their findings discussed and recommendations made.
Findings: Obesity was found to be an emerging disease due to increasing westernization of societies and change in lifestyle. It showed a higher prevalence among women than men; worse still among women of childbearing age and was found to be associated with various reproductive health problems such as difficulty in conceiving, reduced fertility, less successful assisted reproduction and poor health during pregnancy, labour and postnatal period. It also has negative foetal and neonatal consequences in babies of obese women such as neural tube defects, cleft palate, cleft lip, congenital heart disease, increased admission to neonatal intensive care units, omphalocele, macrosomia, shoulder dystocia and stillbirth.
Conclusion: Obesity is preventable, and for obese women, management measures are available to control the condition for improved fertility and maternal and neonatal outcomes.
Keywords: Obesity, infertility, neural tube defects, shoulder dystocia, still birth, reproductive health