Obesity research

Around 20% of pregnant women in the UK are now obese [1]. Tommy’s research is helping women of any weight to have healthy pregnancies.

Being obese (having a BMI over 30) can put both mother and baby at higher risk of problems during pregnancy. Obese mothers-to-be are three times more likely to develop diabetes during pregnancy [2]. They are also more likely to get high blood pressure, have a stillbirth or miscarriage, and experience problems during labour such as heavy bleeding. Babies have a higher risk of being overweight, and a greater chance of diabetes and heart problems later in life [3].

Tommy’s research on obesity looks at the effects of obesity on pregnancy and the baby, and aims to lower the risks experienced by obese mothers. The Edinburgh antenatal metabolic clinic also provides specialist care and support for obese mothers.

Research highlights

  • Rebecca Reynolds, a Tommy’s researcher, was a lead author in a series on maternal obesity and pregnancy published in Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology
  • We are continuing to follow up the women and children involved in the UPBEAT study to look at the long-term effects of obesity and if lifestyle changes during pregnancy can change these
  • We finished the follow-up study of children born to very obese mothers in the HAPPY study. This showed maternal obesity is related to risks of neurodevelopmental problems in the children. We can now concentrate on helping women to achieve a healthy BMI before pregnancy to make sure their babies are as healthy as possible.
  • We showed that stress hormones may be linked to pregnancy complications in obese pregnancy, for which Dr Laura Stirrat was awarded a Presidential Prize at the International Society for Reproductive Investigation
  • The MOOD study showed that children born to obese mothers are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes as an adult

Current obesity research

Completed obesity research


1. RCOG (2011) Why your weight matters during pregnancy and after birth 2011, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, London, England, https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/patients/patient-informat...

2. NHS Choices [accessed 10/02/2018] Overweight and pregnant, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/overweight-pregnant/

3. NHS Choices [accessed 10/02/2018] Overweight and pregnant, https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/overweight-pregnant/

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