Complications suffered by overweight and obese mothers-to-be are costing the NHS hundreds of pounds more each than for women of normal weight giving birth, Scottish research shows.
The major study estimated the extra costs linked to overweight women having babies – finding that among those who are severely obese the bill added up to an additional £350.
Higher costs come from increased hospital admissions, longer stays and treating complications such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
The researchers said the results demonstrated the amount the NHS could save by tackling the nation’s poor obesity record.
Previous research had shown that a fifth of Scottish mothers-to-be are obese, rising to almost half including all those who are overweight.
For the latest study, researchers from Edinburgh and Aberdeen Universities and the NHS used data on 109,592 women who gave birth from 2003-10.
The researchers, writing in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, found that the risk of suffering complications during pregnancy increased with a rising body mass index (BMI).
Severely obese women were three times more likely to suffer from hypertension and gestational diabetes compared with women of normal weight.
All the weight categories showed an increased risk of hospital admission and longer hospital stays after birth compared with women of normal weight.
Additional maternity costs for women with a high or low BMI were also higher than the standard NHS cost for a normal-weight woman. The estimated extra cost of an underweight woman was £102, while for an overweight woman it was just under £60, for an obese woman £202.50 and for a severely obese patient more than £350.
Researcher Dr Fiona Denison, from the Edinburgh Tommy’s Centre for Maternal and Fetal Health, said the findings highlighted the need to tackle obesity.
“These findings further highlight the need for local and national government in Scotland, and other developed countries, to implement fundamental strategies that will help reduce the prevalence of obesity,” she said.
“Longer-term benefits of reducing maternal obesity will show improvements, not only in the health outcomes of mothers and their babies, but the workload and cost to current maternity services.”
Catherine Calderwood, medical adviser for maternity and women’s health at the Scottish Government, said: “The findings of this study, including those on the economic costs, will be used by the Scottish Government to inform future work.”