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Higher maternal BMI linked to fetal death, stillbirth

A meta-analysis has shown that even small increases in a mother's BMI can increase the risk of fetal death, stillbirth, and neonatal, perinatal, and infant death.


Even modest increases in maternal body mass index (BMI) are associated with increased risk of fetal death, stillbirth, and neonatal, perinatal, and infant death, according to a study that recently appeared in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

This was the first meta-analysis to comprehensively summarize results for the relationship between maternal BMI and fetal, perinatal, neonatal, and infant death as well, according to the researchers. They noted that their findings are supported by 2 studies of interpregnancy weight change that reported increased risk of stillbirth in the second pregnancy among women who gained weight between their first and second pregnancies.

The researchers conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies of maternal BMI and risk of fetal death, stillbirth, and infant death by searching the PubMed and Embase databases from inception to January 23, 2014.

For women with BMIs of 20, 25, and 30, absolute risks per 10,000 pregnancies for fetal death were 76, 82, and 102; for stillbirth, 40, 48, and 59; for perinatal death, 66, 73, and 86; for neonatal death, 20, 21, and 24; and for infant death, 33, 37, and 43, respectively.

“Weight management guidelines for women who plan pregnancies should take these findings into consideration to reduce the burden of fetal death, stillbirth, and infant death,” the researchers concluded. 


Aune D, et al. Maternal body mass index and the risk of fetal death, stillbirth and infant death: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA. 2014;311(15):1536–1546.