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Birth problems in obese pregnant women

Obese women go overdue, have long labour and have large babies more frequently than women who are not obese. This means obese mothers and their babies are at increased risk of traumatic deliveries by forceps or caesarean section.

These traumatic deliveries cause the mothers to be at increased risk of problems of bleeding, infection and blood clots. Their babies are at increased risk of stillbirth and birth trauma, as well as asphyxia (shortage of oxygen that leads to brain damage).

One of the factors underlying these problematic births is that obese women's uteruses do not contract as well as those of normal weight women. At the University of Warwick, there are world class experts in how the uterus contracts. Funding from the Grace Research Fund means that the scientists will use their expertise to work out why the obese women's uteruses contract so badly. The funding will pay for laboratory experiments on small pieces of tissue removed from women's uteruses during caesarean sections. These bits of the uterus contract in the laboratory just as the uterus contracts in labour. Once the scientists have worked out why the obese women's uteruses contract badly, they will try different combinations of treatments to get it to contract better.

The doctors will use the information from this study to apply for further funding to perfect the new treatments and trial them in women in labour.