Obese women 'at increased risk of birth defects'

Women who are obese during pregnancy are at an increased risk of birth defects, according to a new study.

Scientists from Newcastle University found that maternal obesity has implications for both mother and child, with an increased risk of spina bifida and neural tube defects.

The team monitored results from previous studies into maternal obesity and the risk of congenital anomalies in newborns.

It found that women who were obese at the start of pregnancy showed a increased risk of the pregnancy being affected by a neural tube defect.

The study found "the absolute risk of a pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect or a serious heart anomaly is respectively 0.47 per 1,000 births and 0.61 per 1,000 births greater" in an obese woman than one with a recommended body mass index.

Katherine Stothard, from the university, said the review has real health implications, especially given the "continued rise in the prevalence of obesity in many countries".

Researchers from the University of Helsinki recently claimed that the shape of a woman's belly button could be evidence of her fertility.