Obesity study in Goulburn Valley symptomatic of rural maternity problem

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 23rd January 2013

The January issue of the Medical Journal of Australia this week has reported on a study into the “prevalence and implications of overweight and obesity in a rural maternity cohort”.

Spanning from 1 January 2005 until 31 December 2010, the study analysed Goulburn Valley Health’s (GVH) maternity service. Data contained in GVH’s database was used, “which includes general demographics, height, weight and antenatal information, and all data pertaining to the delivery and immediate postnatal period and neonatal outcomes.”

Goulburn Valley Health serves predominantly the Shepparton community in Victoria’s north east, which has a population of over 60,000.

Coincidentally, the Goulburn Valley is the heartland of Victoria’s food bowl, producing considerable quantities of Australia’s pears, stone fruit, apples and dairy produce.

According to the study, 65.6% of all women were overweight or obese, registering a BMI of 18.5kg/m2 or higher. This rate was more than double that of Australian metropolitan areas.

The BMI is calculated by taking an individual’s weight in kilograms and dividing it by that individual’s height, squared.

An increased BMI was found to correlate with increased complications for both the mother and child. These complications included increased rates of:

–          Inductions of labour

–          Pregnancy-induced hypertension

–          Operative vaginal deliveries

–          Caesarean sections

–          Gestational age at delivery

–          Birth weight

While the data perhaps does not reveal a significant increased likelihood of perinatal death or transfer to neonatal intensive care for women who were classed as overweight or obese, complications specific to the mother were more likely.

“Maternal outcomes in this study are similar to those in previous reports, again highlighting the strong association between excess weight and maternal complications such as diabetes, hypertension and operative delivery”, notes the study’s conclusion.

In January 2012, Australian Food News reported on findings that a poor maternal diet can put a child at greater risk of developing diabetes and other age-related diseases in later life.