Making sure expectant mothers eat enough remains the main concern of health workers, especially in poorer rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa, but this concentration has masked the fact that some pregnant women are dangerously overweight.
Swaziland, the fattest country in Africa, now has a maternal obesity rate of 27 percent, and an additional 32 percent are overweight - levels comparable to those in Europe. In the UK, for instance, around half of pregnant women either overweight or obese. National figures conceal great variation within countries, with the obesity rates estimated to be three times higher in urban areas than in rural ones. In many cities, this is a visible epidemic, and the causes are visible too. Main streets in Nigeria’s cities are now lined with fast food outlets such as Mr Biggs and Chicken Republic.
Nigeria’s national maternal obesity figures - 17 percent overweight and 6 percent obese - will conceal much higher rates among certain groups of women.
Being overweight is a known risk in pregnancy, and Jenny Cresswell, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, has set out to track the consequences of these growing obesity rates on child survival.But talking to a woman about risks to her baby may be more of an incentive to maintain a healthy weight than saying, ‘You will get ill in twenty years time.’”