Does maternal obesity cause preeclampsia? A systematic review of the evidence

Minerva Ginecol. 2012 Aug;64(4):259-80.


Aim: The aim of this paper was to assess whether maternal obesity causes preeclampsia.

Methods: A systematic literature review of the previous two decades (1992-2011) was conducted. The exposure was maternal obesity while the outcome of interest was preeclampsia.

Results: Our review revealed consistent findings showing strong association between obesity and preeclampsia. Multiple biomarkers that potentially explain the mechanistic pathway in this relationship were identified, including leptin and adiponectin, matrix metalloproteinase (MMP), C-reactive protein (CRP), and sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG). A causative biologic linkage remains, however, elusive.

Conclusion: Epidemiologic evidence exists linking maternal obesity and preeclampsia. However, the exact causal pathway remains poorly defined. Given the minimal understanding of the nature of this relationship, research studies that utilize prospective designs and expand on the previous examination of biomarkers are recommended to determine potential causative pathways.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Pregnancy-Induced / etiology
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Pre-Eclampsia / etiology*
  • Pregnancy