UPBEAT: finding out which obese women will have uncomplicated pregnancies

Professor Lucilla Poston, Dr Annette Briley, Dr Dharmintra Pasupathy, Dr Nashita Patel, Mr Paul Seed, Dr Matias Vieira, Dr Sara White, the UPBEAT consortium

Tommy’s researchers have found particular factors that could help us tell when obese women are likely to have normal pregnancies.

Even though obese women are more likely to suffer complications, most will have completely normal pregnancies. If we can tell which women are at low risk of complications, then we can avoid stress for mothers as well as unnecessary trips to the doctor.

In another study, SCOPE, we managed to find clinical factors that suggested non-obese women would have normal pregnancies. However, these factors may not be the same for obese women. To find out, we looked at around 1,400 UPBEAT mothers to find clinical factors and chemical markers that could be used to tell early in pregnancy if they were at low risk of problems.  

Researchers found that mothers who had already had a child were more likely to have normal pregnancies. Higher levels of a substance called adiponectin, a protein used to control blood sugar, were also related to low-risk pregnancies. Things that made women less likely to have normal pregnancies included being older, high blood pressure, and having a higher body mass index or BMI.

Together, we had some success in using these factors to tell which women were likely to have normal pregnancies. However, we think that if obese women are cared for in midwife units, they should have easy access to full medical care in case of complications. Midwife units are centres led my midwives: they are more comfortable than a hospital ward, but don’t have the same medical supplies.

Going forward, we will continue testing if these factors can be used to tell when women are at low risk by looking at other groups of women outside the UPBEAT study.

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This study takes place in a Tommy's centre and is funded by Tommy's, the National Institute for Health Research, Chief Scientist Office Scotland, Guy's and St Thomas' Charity and the Medical Research Council

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