Background: Obesity (BMI ≥30) is a significant independent risk factor for many gestational complications, including cesarean delivery (CD). While CD rates are increasing in women of every BMI, the trend is more pronounced as maternal weight increases.
Objective: This review seeks to describe the risk modulators that explain the high prevalence of CD in obese women, as well as to discuss the excess complications of the procedure in this group of parturients. In assessing the rationale for the procedure and weighing this against the excess risks involved, a clearer indication of when to perform CD in obese women might be developed.
Results: A thorough review of the literature indicates that a decreased cervical dilation rate, an increased induction rate, the presence of comorbid conditions, concern about shoulder dystocia, and weight gain in excess of recommendations during pregnancy all may contribute to the high rate of CD in obese women. Obese women are at increased risk of CD-related complications including anesthetic complications, wound complications, venous thromboembolism (VTE), and failure of vaginal birth after CD.
Conclusions: Given the excess risks associated with CD in obese women, and that some of the rationale for the procedure (e.g. slower labor, concern about shoulder dystocia) may not be justified based on current evidence, a reassessment of the threshold at which obese women are recommended for CD is necessary.