Prepregnancy weight and the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes

N Engl J Med. 1998 Jan 15;338(3):147-52. doi: 10.1056/NEJM199801153380302.


Background: Obesity before pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of several adverse outcomes of pregnancy. The risk profiles among lean, normal, or mildly overweight women are not, however, well established.

Methods: We studied the associations between prepregnancy body-mass index (defined as the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters) and the frequency of late fetal death, early neonatal death, preterm delivery, and delivery of a small-for-gestational-age infant in a population-based cohort of 167,750 women in Sweden in 1992 and 1993. The women were categorized as follows, according to body-mass index: lean, less than 20.0; normal, 20.0 through 24.9; overweight, 25.0 through 29.9; and obese, 30.0 or more. The estimates were adjusted for maternal age, parity, smoking, education, whether the mother was living with the father, and maternal height.

Results: Among nulliparous women, the odds ratios for late fetal death were increased among women with higher body-mass-index values as compared with lean women, as follows: normal women, 2.2 (95 percent confidence interval, 1.2 to 4.1); overweight women, 3.2 (95 percent confidence interval, 1.6 to 6.2); and obese women, 4.3 (95 percent confidence interval, 2.0 to 9.3). Among parous women, only obese women had a significant increase in the risk of late fetal death (odds ratio, 2.0; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.2 to 3.3). Among nulliparous women, the risk of very preterm delivery (at < or =32 weeks' gestation) was significantly increased among obese as compared with lean women (odds ratio, 1.6; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.1 to 2.3), whereas among parous women, the risk was highest among those who were lean. The risk of delivering a small-for-gestational-age infant decreased more with increasing body-mass index among parous than among nulliparous women.

Conclusions: Higher maternal weight before pregnancy increases the risk of late fetal death, although it protects against the delivery of a small-for-gestational-age infant.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Female
  • Fetal Death / etiology
  • Humans
  • Infant Mortality
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Small for Gestational Age
  • Logistic Models
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obstetric Labor, Premature / etiology
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome*
  • Risk Factors
  • Thinness / complications