Obesity and Women’s Health: Resource Overview

Obesity has become a major public health issue in the US, affecting about one third of adults. Obesity increases the risk of many health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and hypertension. It may also negatively affect pregnancy, increasing the risk of birth defects, macrosomia, preterm birth, stillbirth, preeclampsia, and gestational diabetes.

Ob-gyns, physicians whose primary responsibility is women’s health, are best suited to counsel women on how to maintain a healthy body weight throughout their lifetime.
 
Here are the key publications and resources for ob-gyns, other women’s health care providers, and patients from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and other sources.

Jump to:
Resources for Ob-Gyns and Women’s Health Care Providers
Resources for Women and Patients
External Resources

Resources for Ob-Gyns and Women’s Health Care Providers

Obesity Toolkit
The ACOG-developed obesity toolkit provides information about multiple aspects of obesity care, as well as links to additional resources to help patients reduce the effects of obesity.

Practice Bulletin: Obesity in Pregnancy (members only)
Obesity in Pregnancy”, issued by ACOG in December 2015, recommends preconception counseling for obese women to address the risks of pregnancy complications. It states that at the first prenatal visit, pregnant women should be given advice on weight gain during pregnancy, as well as nutrition and exercise counseling.

Committee Opinion: Obesity in Adolescents
"Obesity in Adolescents," issued by ACOG in September 2017, addresses the increased rate of adolescent obesity in the US, as well as prevention, health risks, and management of adolescent obesity.

Committee Opinion: Gynecologic Surgery in the Obese Woman
Gynecologic Surgery in the Obese Woman”, issued by ACOG in January 2015, discusses how to manage the complications of gynecologic surgery in obese women, who often have comorbid conditions. It recommends a preoperative consultation with an anesthesiologist for patients for whom obstructive sleep apnea is suspected, who are at risk of CAD, who have a difficult airway, or who have poorly controlled hypertension.

Committee Opinion: Ethical Considerations for the Care of Patients With Obesity
“Ethical Considerations for the Care of Patients With Obesity”, issued by ACOG in January 2019, advises ob-gyns to care for obese patients in an unbiased and nonjudgmental manner and to be aware of the medical, social, and ethical implications of obesity.

Committee Opinion: Challenges for Overweight and Obese Womenn
“Challenges for Overweight and Obese Women”,
issued by ACOG in March 2014, discusses how ob-gyns can help women overcome the barriers they face when adopting a healthy lifestyle. It concludes that physicians must address both individual behaviors and the community environment to reduce obesity rates.

Committee Opinion: Weight Gain During Pregnancy
Weight Gain During Pregnancy”, issued by ACOG in January 2013, recommends that ob-gyns follow the guidelines issued by the Institute of Medicine regarding gestational weight gain. Ob-gyns should determine a woman's body mass index (BMI) during the first visit and discuss the need to limit excessive weight gain during pregnancy.

Practice Bulletin: Bariatric Surgery and Pregnancy (members only)
Bariatric Surgery and Pregnancy”, issued by ACOG in June 2009 (reaffirmed 2013), provides recommendations for the care of patients during pregnancy and delivery after bariatric surgery, including the impact of the surgery on labor and delivery, nutrition, contraception, and medications.


Resources for Women and Patients

Patient FAQ: Obesity and Pregnancy
Obesity and Pregnancy,” issued by ACOG in June 2013, discusses how obesity affects pregnancy, including the risks to mom and baby, and provides advice on how to have a safe pregnancy.

Patient FAQ: Weight Control: Eating Right and Keeping Fit
Weight Control: Eating Right and Keeping Fit,” issued by ACOG in June 2013, provides information on maintaining a healthy weight, including weight loss through diet and exercise and surgical options.

Patient FAQ: Exercise and Fitness
Staying Active: Physical Activity and Exercise,” issued by ACOG in November 2016, gives an overview of exercise: the types, benefits, and advice on how to exercise safely and effectively. 


External Resources

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has identified the following external resources on reducing weight bias in the clinical setting that may be helpful for ob-gyns and other health care providers.

These materials are for information purposes only and are not meant to be comprehensive. Referral to these resources does not imply ACOG’s endorsement of the organization, the organization’s website, or the content of the resource. The resources may change without notice.

Implicit Association Test
This online test designed to identify hidden biases on a variety of topics was created by Project Implicit, a nonprofit organization and international collaborative network of researchers focused on the investigation of thoughts and feelings outside of conscious awareness and control. 

Obesity, Bias, and Stigmatization 
This educational resource was developed by The Obesity Society, a scientific membership organization that provides clinical and patient information on the causes, consequences, prevention, and treatment of obesity.

Strategies to Improve Ob-Gyn Care for Obese Patients
This clinical toolkit was developed by the  Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, a nonprofit research and public policy organization devoted to increasing the understanding of the complex forces affecting how we eat, how we stigmatize people with obesity, and how we can change.  

 

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a 501(c)(3) organization, is the nation’s leading group of physicians providing health care for women. As a private, voluntary, nonprofit membership organization of more than 58,000 members, ACOG strongly advocates for quality women’s health care, maintains the highest standards of clinical practice and continuing education of its members, promotes patient education, and increases awareness among its members and the public of the changing issues facing women’s health care.