The number of deaths in newborn babies where the mother is obese is worryingly high, an expert has said.
Since 2000, stillbirth and neonatal mortality rates in the UK have shown a downward trend, according to the Perinatal Mortality 2009 report, published by the Centre for Maternal and Child Enquiries (CMACE).
However, 10% of mothers who had a stillbirth or whose babies died in the neonatal period in 2009 had a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 35 or more, an indicator of obesity, the report found. This is twice the UK rate (5%) of all deliveries to women with a BMI of 35 or more at any point in pregnancy.
In addition, the report found links between stillbirths and neonatal deaths and age. Mothers who had stillbirths and neonatal deaths were more likely to be younger (less than 25 years old) and older (40 plus).
The youngest (less than 20 years old) mothers were 1.4 times more likely to have a stillbirth and 1.2 times more likely to have a neonatal death than mothers of 25-29. The older (40 plus) were 1.7 and 1.3 times more likely to have a stillbirth or neonatal death respectively compared with mothers of 25-29.
Ethnicity was also a significant factor. Mothers from ethnic minority groups are more likely to have stillbirths and neonatal deaths, the report found.
Mothers of black ethnic origin were 2.1 times more likely to have a stillbirth and 2.4 times more likely to have a neonatal death than mothers of white ethnic origin. Similarly, mothers of Asian ethnic origin were 1.6 times more likely to have a stillbirth or a neonatal death than mothers of white ethnic origin.
Dr Tony Falconer, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said: "Every stillbirth is a tragic event. This report highlights a promising downward trend of perinatal mortality over the last 10 years. However, worryingly, the numbers of perinatal deaths linked to rising obesity is high.
"Maternal obesity is a key public health concern and pregnant women who are obese need to know about the possible risks to them and their baby. The ideal situation of course would be for women to maintain a healthy weight before they fall pregnant to ensure the best outcome for them and their babies.
"Therefore, it is vitally important for women to be encouraged to lead healthy lifestyles throughout their lives and they can get good information from their GPs on diet, nutrition and exercise."