Pregnancy, since Malaya’s independence in 1957, our country has made remarkable social and economic progress. Our public healthcare system and the private market have worked together to significantly reduce childhood malnutrition, stunting, and being underweight.
However, economic growth has come at a cost: modern calorie-dense food systems have combined with sedentary lifestyles to create a new problem of obesity.
Obesity has become a major problem in Malaysia.
The Health Ministry conducts the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) every three to five years to monitor Malaysians’ health.
According to the NHMS, 30% of Malaysian adults were overweight in 2019 and another 20% were obese.
In other words, half of the Malaysian adults are overweight or obese.
This has numerous implications.
According to the 2016 NHMS, 15% of pregnant women are obese, as measured by their pre-pregnancy BMI (BMI).
The group with the highest obesity rate, at 70%, was those who were 45-49 years old during pregnancy.
Obesity and advanced maternal age are two risk factors for both mother and baby during pregnancy.
High blood pressure, diabetes, early pregnancy loss, and preterm birth are all potential complications.
Obese mothers have longer labors and a higher risk of obstructed labor, which leads to instrumental or cesarean delivery.
They are more likely to develop infections, blood clots, and depression after giving birth.
As a result, the risk of maternal death rises dramatically.
Similarly, the baby’s risk of death increases, whether in the womb or during the first year of life.
As the fetus of an obese mother grows, there is a risk of overgrowth, which increases the baby’s chances of having its shoulder stuck during delivery – a condition known medically as shoulder dystocia – which can lead to further complications.
Obese mothers’ children have a higher risk of becoming obese themselves later in life.
Because these women are likely to retain the weight gained during pregnancy, each subsequent pregnancy results in an increase in weight.
As a result, the risk of more disabling diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, and certain cancers rises.
This has a significant financial impact on healthcare systems, both directly and as a result of the consequences.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the total cost of high BMI to health services worldwide is US$990 billion (RM4.31 trillion) per year, accounting for more than 13% of total healthcare expenditure.
Obesity-related healthcare costs in Malaysia totaled a staggering US$907.4 million in 2016. (RM3.95 billion).
- A favorable environment
- Obesity has numerous causes.
However, we oppose incorrect perceptions that attribute obesity to laziness, gluttony, or a lack of willpower to exercise, or that offer simplistic advice such as “just eat less and move more.”
While fighting obesity requires some personal control and choice, using guilt and shame to change behavior is unacceptable.
Having said that, there are several reasons for the rising number of obese or overweight Malaysians, particularly pregnant women.
One, a pregnant woman should gain a healthy amount of weight.
A woman who has a high BMI prior to pregnancy, on the other hand, is at risk of pregnancy obesity.
As the population becomes more overweight, more women of reproductive age are entering pregnancy with a higher baseline BMI.