C-section advice for overweight women

Learn how being overweight can affect your chances of needing a c-section and how this affects your recovery afterwards.

Being overweight or obese does not always mean you will need a caesarean section (c-section), but you may be more likely to have one. The more overweight you are, the more likely you are to need a c-section.

Body Mass Index

One way of finding out whether you are a healthy weight is to measure your Body Mass Index (BMI). NHS Choices has a BMI calculator that tells you what your BMI is, based on your height and weight.

You should measure your BMI before you become pregnant. If you are pregnant, or if you’ve recently had a baby, your midwife or GP can give you advice on keeping to a healthy weight.

If your BMI before pregnancy is between 25 and 29.9, you are in the overweight range. If your BMI is 30 or more, you are in the obese range.

What are the risks?

If your BMI was 30 or more before pregnancy, you have a higher risk of:

If you have complications during pregnancy or birth, you may need a longer stay in hospital after your c-section.

Read more about recovery after a c-section in hospital.

Diet and exercise

Eating a healthy diet and keeping active will help you and your baby stay healthy while you are pregnant, and will help you keep to a healthy weight after the birth. Your healthcare team will give you advice on diet and exercise during your pregnancy. Avoid dieting when you are pregnant or breastfeeding as it may harm your baby or affect your milk supply.

There are no UK guidelines saying how much weight you can expect to gain during pregnancy. It will vary from woman to woman. The weight will come from your baby, the amniotic fluid and the extra blood and fluid your body produces, together with body fat.

You can get information on diet and exercise from the Eatwell Guide and from NHS Choice’s Pregnancy and baby guide. If you feel you need more advice, you can ask your GP to refer you to a dietitian.

Keeping active after your c-section will help you recover physically and mentally. This, together with breastfeeding, can help you to manage your weight. Going for gentle walks with your baby is a good way of keeping active while you’re recovering from your c-section. When you are feeling stronger, and don’t have any pain or discomfort, you could try going for brisk walks or swimming. Listen to your body and avoid pushing yourself too hard while you’re recovering from the surgery.

Extra reading

Overweight and pregnant

Sources

  1. Dignon A, Truslove T (2013) Obesity, pregnancy outcomes and caesarean section: a structured review of the combined literature. Evidence based midwifery 11(4): 132-137.
  2. Faucett AM, Metz TD (2016) Delivery of the Obese Gravida. Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology 59(1): 180–192.
  3. Marchi J et al. (2015) Risks associated with obesity in pregnancy, for the mother and baby: a systematic review of reviews. Obesity reviews 16: 621–638.
  4. NHS Choices (2016) [Accessed 9 February 2018] What is the body mass index (BMI)? www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/3215.aspx
  5. NICE (2011) Caesarean section. Clinical guideline 132, London National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.
  6. NICE (2010) Weight management before, during and after pregnancy. Public health guideline 27, Manchester National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.
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Last reviewed on April 24th, 2018. Next review date April 24th, 2021.

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