Friday, January 13, 2017

Common Sense Prenatal Weight Gain Recommendations for "Obese" Women

The 2009 IOM Guidelines for Prenatal Weight Gain
Coming up with official prenatal weight gain guidelines is difficult. There's always a trade-off involved ─ too much weight gain increases the risk for large babies, but too little increases the risk for small babies.

(The effects of weight gain on cesarean rates and pre-eclampsia are harder to figure out because of multiple variables that influence outcomes, so we will limit our discussion for a moment to the influence of weight gain on fetal outcomes.)

This weight gain trade-off has been particularly difficult to figure out in women of size. We tend to have larger babies on average and a very big weight gain seems to increase fetal size particularly strongly in high-BMI women. Nor do we need to gain extra fat reserves for pregnancy and breastfeeding. As a result, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends less weight gain on average for "obese" women (see chart above).

While I don't hate these recommendations, I do have some concerns with them, particularly for women in the borderline categories (see discussion below). Women in these categories may be particularly at risk for poor outcomes, yet they are given the same stringent guidelines (and are often told to gain even less than the guidelines).

I also question how much control women really have over gestational weight gains. Sure, we have control over how much we eat and exercise, but that impact on gain is fairly minimal. There have been many trials of interventions to help obese women keep their weight gains lower; some have had minimal success (about 5 lbs. difference), but many have made little difference in weight gain and do little to improve other outcomes. Even with the best support, many women of size gain above the guidelines ─ not because they are lazy or out of control, but because the guidelines aren't particularly realistic for them.

I am also concerned about harassment and over-intervention in the pregnancies of women who gain above these recommended ranges. I have heard many stories of women of size who are harassed or even punished with early inductions or planned cesareans because they "gained too much."

So while I agree in general with the IOM that obese women don't need to gain as much weight in pregnancy as other women, I do have some reservations about the IOM guidelines and in particular about how they are implemented. But sadly, even these guidelines are not stringent enough for some providers.

Taking The 2009 Guidelines Even Further

Some caregivers believe the 2009 IOM weight gain goals didn't go far enough for obese women. In recent years, unofficial prenatal weight gain advice has gotten progressively more extreme. I call this the "anorexation" of pregnancy weight gain guidelines.

The following are real-life headlines from media articles over the years. Notice how the headlines have changed. They have gone from "obese women should gain LESS weight"..... "obese women should gain NO weight" "obese women should LOSE weight" during pregnancy.

Disturbingly, many experts have taken an extremist tone in the media and sold these draconian measures as a public health imperative, which alarms me greatly. Many news articles have pushed this weight restriction agenda, assuring us that very little gain was perfectly safe and even healthier for the plus-sized mother and her baby. Here are just a couple of examples.

One article about the IOM recommendations prominently featured the following quotes promoting even lower gains in high-BMI women:
"I think 11 to 20 pounds is way too much for an obese woman," said Dr. Thomas Myles, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine who was not involved in the current recommendations. "I usually tell my [obese] patients that gaining less than 10 pounds and even losing up to 10 pounds is appropriate, whereas for overweight women, gaining 10 to 15 and even up to 20 pounds is appropriate," Myles said. 
Gaining a little less weight than the recommended amount, especially for overweight and obese women, might be better, [Associate Professor, Dr. Emily] Oken [of Harvard University] said.
Another article promoting zero weight gain in obese women featured the following quote from one of its leading investigators in its study's press release (my emphasis):
It may seem counterintuitive to suggest that women control their weight during pregnancy, but these women are already carrying between 50 and 100 extra pounds — and for them any more weight gain could be very dangerous,” said Vic Stevens, PhD, principal investigator who has studied weight loss and weight maintenance for more than 30 years.
Another recent article quoted Dr. Sigal Klipstein, Chair of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists committee on Medical ethics. Even as she discussed the importance of treating obese women humanely during pregnancy, Dr. Klipstein stated:
Although women should not to try to lose weight during pregnancy, “a woman who weighs 300 pounds shouldn’t gain at all,” Klipstein said. “This is not harmful to the fetus.”
But is it really true that very small or non-existent gains are not harmful?

Risks of Too-Small Gains

Those who suggest that gaining little or no weight is optimal for women of size are ignoring all the contrary research.

A significant amount of research has shown that very low weight gains and/or weight loss during pregnancy in women of size carries real risks, including

Tellingly, virtually NO media articles acknowledge that low weight gains have risks or cite the research that shows this. That there are so many articles promoting restricted gain in obese women while completely ignoring the potential harms of such a policy suggests a health agenda that places ideology over evidence.

And now there is even more research suggesting that very low gains may be risky.

A very recent study (Durst 2016) showed that weight gains below the IOM recommendations in obese women led to increased rates of  small-for-gestational-age ("SGA") babies and pre-term births. Another recent study (Cox Bauer 2016) found that gestational weight loss (GWL) was associated with low-birth weight babies. These are a concern because too-small babies are more at risk for future health problems like metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance.

Still another recent study (Hannaford 2016) shows that too-low weight gains, even in obese women, more than doubled the risk for too-small babies. The authors suggested that there may need to be a threshold of a minimum weight gain, even for very high-BMI women, which is a pretty radical suggestion given how many doctors are calling for zero gain or weight loss in this group.

But these new studies are far from the first to find reasons for concern. A brand-new meta-analysis (Xu 2017) of studies on weight gain below the 2009 guidelines in obese mothers found that low weight gain was associated with SGA babies in all obesity categories, not just in the borderline categories.

Yet another meta-analysis (Kapadia 2015) of studies on weight gain in obese pregnant women concluded that, because of its consistent association with too-small babies,
Gestational weight gain below the guidelines cannot be routinely recommended.
Too-small babies and prematurity may not be the only risks of very low weight gains; they may also be implicated in infant deaths.

A recent study (Bodnar 2016) found that weight loss and very low weight gains in Class I and II obese women were associated with a higher risk of infant death.

This is particularly important because research is very clear that SGA babies have a higher risk for stillbirth and neonatal mortality. In addition, some past research (Salihu 2009) shows that SGA babies of obese women are at particular risk for stillbirth.

Sorry, but SGA babies, prematurity, and infant death are pretty significant concerns. People like Dr. Myles, Dr. Oken, Dr. Stevens, and Dr.Klipstein who have been recommending weight gains well below the IOM recommendations have been playing Russian Roulette with the babies of their patients of size.

This is a common problem in medicine ─ taking a recommendation to extreme lengths without adequately studying its safety first.

Obese women as a group may benefit from gaining less weight on average than other women, but it does NOT automatically follow that even less is better

Sadly, while now there are years of data suggesting harms with very low gains and/or gestational weight loss, many experts are STILL telling women of size and their providers that "any weight gain in overweight and obese patients is detrimental to pregnancy outcome." Any weight gain, really?

This bias towards ever-lowered weight gain goals is so ingrained that it continues to deny the existence of any contrary evidence. The 2013 article quoted above advises OB-GYNs:
Weight maintenance and even weight reduction have not proven harmful in obese pregnant patients according to studies in the recent literature
Not proven harmful? This statement completely ignores numerous studies published before 2013 pointing out safety concerns with this advice (Bayerlein 2011, Bodnar 2010, Blomberg 2011, Vesco 2011, Dietz 2006, Potti 2010, Hasegawa 2012).

And now we have EVEN MORE studies showing that there are safety concerns, yet this low/no gain/weight loss advice continues to be given routinely by many providers who assure their patients falsely that there is no reason to worry.

But What About....?

Critics will undoubtedly point out that some of these same studies show benefits of lower gains such as a modestly lower cesarean rate or lower rates of pre-eclampsia. These are valid points. However, that's a whole different discussion because multiple variables influence these complications and it's difficult to tease out a causal relationship.

For example, caregivers are not blinded to their patients' gains. A bigger gain may mean a bigger baby. Fear of a big baby can strongly influence the perception of when a cesarean is "needed" and how many interventions like induction are used. Research shows that women with larger weight gains are induced at higher rates. Therefore it may not be weight gain that's the issue, but rather how the caregiver responds to the gain.

Pre-eclampsia is another situation where you can't jump to conclusions about weight gain. Women with pre-eclampsia typically have a lot of swelling, which means a higher weight gain. As Nohr 2008 states:
Any causal interpretation of the association between total weight gain and these complications is limited. For preeclampsia, high total gain most likely reflects pathologic fluid retention as part of the disease.
In other words, a higher weight gain doesn't necessarily cause pre-eclampsia, but rather it often results from pre-eclampsia. It certainly doesn't mean that a lower weight gain will prevent pre-eclampsia. We just don't know if deliberately restricting weight gain will lower the rate of pre-eclampsia in obese women.

However, it must be acknowledged that too much weight gain is probably also not ideal. Prenatal weight gain clearly influences fetal size, and higher gains seem particularly particularly potent for larger fetal size in high-BMI women. Postpartum, a larger gain may also be difficult to lose; multiple pregnancies with large gains can result in a net overall weight increase that might possibly affect the mother's health. So doctors have to find a balance between the very real risk/benefit trade-offs of too much or too little gain in pregnancy.

That's not easy, and I acknowledge that. But it seems to me that the debate is still very unbalanced, with too many experts still not willing to acknowledge the very real risks of too-small gains.

Deliberately ignoring contrary research is not an evidence-based approach. It smacks of a weight restriction agenda instead of a reasoned approach to best practices.


For too long, "experts" have been waging a campaign to lower the 2009 IOM guidelines even further for obese women. As a result, many care providers have used draconian pressure on women of size to gain very little or even to lose weight in pregnancy. But there are significant safety concerns with this approach, concerns that these so-called experts are conveniently ignoring.

The research makes several things clear:
  1. Very low weight gain or weight loss is extremely consistent with too-small babies in multiple studies 
  2. Too-small babies are at increased risk for adulthood diseases
  3. Weight loss and very low weight gains may also be associated with a higher risk for infant death and prematurity 
These concerns means it's time for caregivers to STOP promoting extreme weight gain limits and to START acknowledging that very low gains also carry risks. 

Now, it may be that in time, different weight gains will be recommended for different levels of obesity. That seems like a possibility that is worthy of further consideration.

For example, "overweight" women (BMI 25-29) and women with Class I obesity (BMI 30-35) seem to be the most negatively affected by very small weight gains, whereas some research shows that women with Class III obesity (BMI 40-50) and Class IV obesity (BMI 50+) are less affected on average by very low gains.

So there may be some gradations in recommendations in the future, and I welcome discussions about this possibility ─ but given the established risks and the meta-analysis of studies that showed increased SGA risks across all class sizes of obesity, it would still behoove us to be very cautious about recommending very low weight gain even in women with Class III and IV obesity. We simply cannot assume that restricting gains is harmless even there.

Common Sense Recommendations

To me, what's missing from prenatal weight gain recommendations for obese women is nuance. It's time to pull back from prenatal weight gain extremism and show some common sense. Here are the things I think caregivers should take into account when discussing pregnancy weight gain with women of size.

Women of size should be informed in a neutral way of the IOM weight gain recommendations and why they were made. A neutral discussion, with research citations as appropriate, goes a lot further to helping women make informed and empowered decisions. A decision about weight gain goals that comes from the woman herself, rather than being imposed by external forces, is a lot more likely to result in reasonable gains.

How the message is communicated is important. Women should be given reasonable nutritional advice and strongly encouraged to exercise, but risks should not be exaggerated. Lecturing, scare tactics, and condescension means that people will simply tune out recommendations. Treat women as competent partners in their own care and avoid judgment. Emphasize healthy habits rather than numbers on the scale.

Consider tailoring recommendations by BMI. Women in the borderline BMI classes are the most at risk for poor outcomes with very low gains; they should be encouraged to gain nearer to the top of the IOM recommendations. It may even be that women with Class I obesity (BMI 30-35) do best with slightly more gain (15-25 lbs.). Women in Class III (BMI over 40) and Class IV obesity (BMI over 50) can be encouraged to gain towards the lower end of the recommendations or even slightly lower (5-15 lbs.) but great care should be taken that this message does not translate into pressure for restricted intake or extreme measures. Do not assume that very high BMI women have adequate nutritional reserves to make up for a lack of gain; good nutrition is always the priority.

Do not promote actively losing weight in pregnancy. Research shows there are too many potential harms to recommend pursuing gestational weight loss. Some women of size lose without trying; this is not a cause for panic as long as intake is adequate and the baby is growing well. But actively encouraging women to aim for weight loss during pregnancy is different than coincidental weight loss, is likely to result in restrictive behaviors, and probably has far greater risk.

Consider patterns of gestational weight gain. Has the weight gain pattern been relatively smooth? Was there a very large gain in the beginning? At the end? Different patterns may indicate different concerns. Also, don't forget to take pre-conception weight into account; many obese women lose weight in the first trimester and slowly gain that back to a small overall gain. If the initial loss is not counted, it looks like the woman has gained more weight than she actually has. Look at the whole picture.

Do not harass women about weight gain. Weight-related harassment is obnoxious and inappropriate, but it is sadly all too common. Women should not feel afraid to step on the scale at appointments, yet they often experience harassment. Medical assistants should record weight without comment. Care providers can ask neutrally about gains and can work with women on monitoring nutrition and troubleshooting worrisome trends, but judgment and belittling will only backfire. If a woman gains outside of guidelines despite good nutrition and regular exercise, consider other possible variables. Assume that a woman's body will gain what it needs for a healthy pregnancy.

Avoid food extremism. Women of size should not be pressured to strongly restrict calories or to eliminate entire food groups. They should be encouraged to eat reasonable amounts from a wide variety of foods. Nutritional advice should be evidence-based, not from unproven diet trends. Caregivers need to find a way to talk to clients about nutrition and weight gain concerns without condescension or judgment. Work with women and listen to their feedback about their needs.

Individualize care according to the woman's needs. People of size are not all alike. Some fit stereotypical images of fast food consumption and binge eating, others have very healthy habits, and many fall somewhere in between. Ask them respectfully about their habits and concerns; don't make assumptions. Believe what they tell you and advise them accordingly. If habits need improvement, encourage small and reasonable steps and recognize positive achievements.

Remember that weight gains among high-BMI women are highly variable. Research shows that weight gains in pregnancy are less predictable in larger women. Some have very large gains, some have very small gains, and some lose weight without trying. Often the women who gain the most are those who have recently lost weight or who are chronic dieters/weight cyclers, those with lipedema, or those who have swelling with pre-eclampsia. Many factors influence gestational weight gain besides the habits of the women. Acknowledge that some weight gain may be out of their control.

Look more at how the mother and baby are doing than at the scale. Guidelines are more for groups than individuals. While research shows that very high or very low gains are generally best avoided on average, some obese women gain more or less than recommended and have perfectly healthy babies. Some gain a lot and have average-sized babies; some gain almost nothing and have big babies; some lose weight with no obvious harmful effect. Gaining outside the recommendations is not necessarily a cause for alarm, as long as the mother's intake is normal and baby is growing well.

Women should not be subjected to extra interventions if they exceed their providers' weight gain goals. Some fat women are being consciously punished for "too much weight gain" by being subjected to extra interventions like inductions or planned cesareans. However, some of these interventions may occur because of providers' underlying fears about big babies. Care providers must actively examine their own biases so that they do not unconsciously use increased interventions on those who gain more.

Most importantly, focus on nutrition rather than on the scale. Too many providers use weight gain as a marker of pregnancy status and ignore nutrition altogether. What a woman is eating matters more than how much weight she has gained. Women can be given a weight gain goal range, nutritional advice, and exercise opportunities, but nutrition should not be manipulated in order to achieve an arbitrary number. The scale is a poor predictor of outcome and should not be used as a surrogate for nutritional adequacy or fetal status. Focus more on nutrition and concrete signs of how the mother/baby dyad is doing than on numbers on a scale.

Care providers need to bring common sense back into prenatal weight gain guidelines and take a more nuanced approach with women of size.


Very Low Gain and Too-Small Infants (Latest Studies)

Am J Perinatol. 2016 Jun 29. [Epub ahead of print] Gestational Weight Gain: Association with Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes. Hannaford KE1, Tuuli MG, Odibo L, Macones GA, Odibo AO. PMID: 27355980 DOI: 10.1055/s-0036-1584583
...OBJECTIVES: We investigated how weight gain outside the IOM's recommendations affects the risks of adverse pregnancy outcomes. STUDY DESIGN: We performed a secondary analysis of a prospective cohort study including singleton, nonanomalous fetuses. The risks of small for gestational age (SGA), macrosomia, preeclampsia, cesarean delivery, gestational diabetes, or preterm birth were calculated for patients who gained weight below or above the IOM's recommendations based on body mass index category....Women who gained weight below recommendations were 2.5 times more likely to deliver SGA and twice as likely to deliver preterm...Obese patients who gained inadequate weight were 2.5 times more likely to deliver SGA. CONCLUSIONS: ...Among obese patients, a minimum weight gain requirement may prevent SGA infants.
Am J Perinatol. 2016 Jul;33(9):849-55. doi: 10.1055/s-0036-1579650. Epub 2016 Mar 9. Impact of Gestational Weight Gain on Perinatal Outcomes in Obese Women. Durst JK, Sutton AL, Cliver SP, Tita AT, Biggio JR. PMID: 2696070
...STUDY DESIGN: A retrospective cohort of perinatal outcomes in obese women who gained below, within, or above the 2009 Institute of Medicine guidelines and delivered ≥ 36 weeks. Additionally, outcomes, according to the rate of GWG (kg/week; minimal [< 0.16], moderate [0.16-0.49], or excessive [> 0.49]) were compared among women delivering preterm. RESULTS: Overall, 5,651 obese women delivered ≥ 36 weeks. GWG above guidelines was associated with increased cesarean section (adjusted odds ratio [aOR]: 1.44, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.21-1.72), gestational hypertension (aOR: 1.58, 95% CI: 1.21-2.06), and macrosomia (birth weight ≥ 4,000 g) (aOR: 2.08, 95% CI: 1.62-2.67). GWG below recommendations was associated with less large for gestational age infants (aOR: 0.60, 95% CI: 0.47-0.75)...Minimal weekly GWG was associated with increased spontaneous preterm birth (aOR: 1.56, 95% CI: 1.23-1.98) and more small for gestational age (SGA) infants (aOR: 1.55, 95% CI: 1.19-2.01). Excessive weekly GWG was associated with increased indicated preterm birth (aOR: 1.61, 95% CI: 1.29-2.01), cesarean section (aOR: 1.39, 95% CI: 1.20-1.61), preeclampsia (aOR: 1.83, 95% CI: 1.49-2.26), neonatal intensive care unit admission (aOR: 1.33, 95% CI: 1.08-1.63), and macrosomia (aOR: 2.40, 95% CI: 1.94-2.96).CONCLUSIONS: Obese women with excessive GWG had worse outcomes than women with GWG within recommendations. Limited GWG was associated with increased spontaneous preterm birth and SGA infants.
J Perinatol. 2016 Apr;36(4):278-83. doi: 10.1038/jp.2015.202. Epub 2016 Jan 7. Maternal and neonatal outcomes in obese women who lose weight during pregnancy. Cox Bauer CM, Bernhard KA, Greer DM, Merrill DC. PMID: 26741574
OBJECTIVE: To evaluate neonatal and maternal outcomes in obese pregnant women whose weight gain differed from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommendations. STUDY DESIGN: Maternal and neonatal outcomes associated with weight change in pregnancy were retrospectively investigated in women with obesity (body mass index (BMI) ⩾30 kg m(-2); N=10734) who gave birth at 12 hospitals...RESULT: Compared with IOM recommendations, weight loss was associated with twofold greater odds of low birth weight infants and a mean decrease in estimated blood loss of 30 ml; excessive weight gain was associated with doubled odds of gestational hypertension or preeclampsia, fourfold greater odds of macrosomia and a mean decrease in 5-min APGAR of 0.09....
J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2017 Feb;30(3):357-367. Epub 2016 Apr 28. Inadequate weight gain in obese women and the risk of small for gestational age (SGA): a systematic review and meta-analysis. Xu Z, Wen Z, Zhou Y, Li D, Luo Z. PMID: 27033234
...We conducted a meta-analysis of original researches with sufficient information about inadequate GWG in obese women stratified by obesity classes. SGA as the chief outcome was extracted and assessed in our analysis...13 studies (437 512 obese women) were included. Obese women who gained weight below the guidelines had higher risks of SGA than those who gained weight within the guidelines (OR 1.28; 95% CI 1.14-1.43). The same conclusions were also confirmed in Class I, Class II and Class III of obese women: Class I (OR 1.37; 95% CI 1.22-1.54); Class II (OR 1.38; 95% CI 1.24-1.54); Class III (OR 1.25; 95% CI 1.14-1.36). CONCLUSIONS: From our analysis, the guidelines of IOM can be applied to all the classes of obesity. More accurate boundaries for each obesity class should be established to evaluate the maternal and fetal risks. Diverse populations are thus necessary for more studies in the future.
Low Weight Gain/SGA and Risk for Infant Death 

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2016 Feb;24(2):490-8. doi: 10.1002/oby.21335. Epub 2015 Nov 17. Maternal obesity and gestational weight gain are risk factors for infant death. Bodnar LM, Siminerio LL, Himes KP, Hutcheon JA, Lash TL, Parisi SM, Abrams B. PMID: 26572932
OBJECTIVE: Assessment of the joint and independent relationships of gestational weight gain and prepregnancy body mass index (BMI) on risk of infant mortality was performed. METHODS: This study used Pennsylvania linked birth-infant death records (2003-2011) from infants without anomalies born to mothers with prepregnancy BMI categorized as underweight (n = 58,973), normal weight (n = 610,118), overweight (n = 296,630), grade 1 obesity (n = 147,608), grade 2 obesity (n = 71,740), and grade 3 obesity (n = 47,277)...For all BMI groups except for grade 3 obesity, there were U-shaped associations between gestational weight gain and risk of infant death. Weight loss and very low weight gain among women with grades 1 and 2 obesity were associated with high risks of infant mortality....
Am J Perinatol. 2016 Aug 17. [Epub ahead of print] Morbidity and Mortality in Small-for-Gestational-Age Infants: A Secondary Analysis of Nine MFMU Network Studies. Mendez-Figueroa H1, Truong VT2, Pedroza C2, Chauhan SP1. PMID: 27533102
...Data from nine Maternal-Fetal Medicine Units Network studies were used and included nonanomalous singletons at 24 weeks or more and birth weight < 90% for EGA...Among SGA, the likelihood of stillbirth (8.8 vs. 2.5 per 1,000 births; adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 3.98, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 2.92-5.42) and neonatal mortality (14.0 vs. 5.5 per 1,000 births; aOR 3.18, 95% CI: 2.55-3.95) was threefold higher compared with AGA. For the subgroup of newborns of EGA of 32 weeks or more, SGA, compared with AGA, had significantly higher risk of stillbirth (aOR 3.32, 95% CI: 2.16-5.12) and neonatal mortality (aOR 2.50; 95% CI: 1.38-4.54). From 35 weeks onward, the risk of stillbirth among SGA is almost four times higher than for AGA. CONCLUSION: The risk of stillbirth and neonatal mortality is significantly higher with SGA than with AGA. Modification in practice or new management schema may be warranted.
Obstet Gynecol. 2009 Aug;114(2 Pt 1):333-9. Success of programming fetal growth phenotypes among obese women. Salihu HM, Mbah AK, Alio AP, Kornosky JL, Bruder K, Belogolovkin V. PMID: 19622995
...METHODS: This was a retrospective cohort study using the Missouri maternally linked cohort files (years 1978-1997)...Fetal growth phenotypes were defined as large for gestational age (LGA), appropriate for gestational age (AGA), and small for gestational age (SGA)...Neonatal mortality among LGA infants was similar for obese...and normal...weight mothers (OR 1.05, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.75-1.48) and regardless of obesity subtype. By contrast, SGA and AGA infants programmed by obese mothers experienced greater neonatal mortality as compared with those born to normal weight mothers (AGA OR 1.45, 95% CI 1.32-1.59; SGA OR 1.72, 95% CI 1.49-1.98). CONCLUSION: Compared with normal weight mothers, obese women are least successful at programming SGA, less successful at programming AGA, and equally as successful at programming LGA infants.
Low Weight Gain and Risk for Prematurity

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2013 Dec;21(12):E770-4. doi: 10.1002/oby.20490. Epub 2013 Jul 5. Gestational weight loss and perinatal outcomes in overweight and obese women subsequent to diagnosis of gestational diabetes mellitus. Yee LM, Cheng YW, Inturrisi M, Caughey AB. PMID: 23613187
...Retrospective cohort study of 26,205 overweight and obese gestational diabetic women enrolled in the California Diabetes and Pregnancy Program. Women with GWL [Gestational Weight Loss] during program enrollment were compared to those with weight gain...RESULTS: About 5.2% of women experienced GWL. GWL was associated with decreased odds of macrosomia (aOR 0.63, 95% CI 0.52-0.77), NICU admission (aOR 0.51, 95% CI 0.27-0.95), and cesarean delivery (aOR 0.81, 95% CI 0.68-0.97). Odds of SGA status (aOR 1.69, 95% CI 1.32-2.17) and preterm delivery <34 weeks (aOR 1.71, 95% CI 1.23-2.37) were increased. CONCLUSIONS: In overweight and obese women with GDM, third trimester weight loss is associated with some improved maternal and neonatal outcomes, although this effect is lessened by increased odds of SGA status and preterm delivery. Further research on weight loss and interventions to improve adherence to weight guidelines in this population is recommended.
BJOG. 2011 Jan;118(1):55-61. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-0528.2010.02761.x. Epub 2010 Nov 4. Associations of gestational weight loss with birth-related outcome: a retrospective cohort study. Beyerlein A, Schiessl B, Lack N, von Kries R. PMID: 21054761
...DESIGN: Retrospective cohort study. SETTING AND POPULATION: Data on 709 575 singleton deliveries in Bavarian obstetric units from 2000-2007 were extracted from a standard dataset for which data are regularly collected for the national benchmarking of obstetric units...RESULTS: GWL was associated with a decreased risk of pregnancy complications, such as pre-eclampsia and nonelective caesarean section, in overweight and obese women [e.g. OR = 0.65 (95% confidence interval: 0.51, 0.83) for nonelective caesarean section in obese class I women]. The risks of preterm delivery and SGA births, by contrast, were significantly higher in overweight and obese class I/II mothers [e.g. OR = 1.68 (95% confidence interval: 1.37, 2.06) for SGA in obese class I women]. In obese class III women, no significantly increased risks of poor outcomes for infants were observed. CONCLUSIONS: The association of GWL with a decreased risk of pregnancy complications appears to be outweighed by increased risks of prematurity and SGA in all but obese class III mothers.
Epidemiology. 2006 Mar;17(2):170-7. Combined effects of prepregnancy body mass index and weight gain during pregnancy on the risk of preterm delivery. Dietz PM, Callaghan WM, Cogswell ME, Morrow B, Ferre C, Schieve LA. PMID: 16477257
...METHODS: Using data from the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System in 21 states, we estimated the risk of very (20-31 weeks) and moderately (32-36 weeks) preterm delivery associated with a combination of prepregnancy body mass index (BMI) and gestational weight gain among 113,019 women who delivered a singleton infant during 1996-2001...RESULTS: There was a strong association between very low weight gain and very preterm delivery that varied by prepregnancy BMI, with the strongest association among underweight women (adjusted odds ratio = 9.8; 95% confidence interval = 7.0-13.8) and the weakest among very obese women (2.3; 1.8-3.1)...Women with very high weight gain had approximately twice the odds of very preterm delivery, regardless of prepregnancy BMI. CONCLUSIONS: This study supports concerns about very low weight gain during pregnancy, even among overweight and obese women, and also suggests that high weight gain, regardless of prepregnancy BMI, deserves further investigation.
J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2012 Oct;25(10):1909-12. doi: 10.3109/14767058.2012.664666. Epub 2012 Mar 12. Gestational weight loss has adverse effects on placental development. Hasegawa J1, Nakamura M, Hamada S, Okuyama A, Matsuoka R, Ichizuka K, Sekizawa A, Okai T. PMID: 22348351
OBJECTIVE: To clarify whether mothers with gestational weight loss (GWL) were likely to have adverse effects on the placenta. STUDY DESIGN: Subjects who delivered viable singleton infants after 24 weeks of gestation were enrolled. A retrospective analysis to evaluate cases of GWL in association with the findings of the placenta and amniotic membrane after delivery was conducted. After consideration of confounders, a case-control study with matched pairs (1:2) was performed. RESULTS: Of all subjects (5551 cases), 83 cases (1.5%) with GWL were found. Since the pre-pregnancy maternal body mass index (BMI) was significantly higher in cases, 166 controls with a matched BMI were selected. The neonatal birth weights, placental weights and the umbilical cord length in cases were significantly smaller than in controls (p < 0.05). Preterm delivery and small for gestational age (SGA) infants were more frequently observed in cases compared with controls [odds ratio (OR) 6.3; 95% confidence interval (CI) 3.3, 12.1, OR 4.3; 95% CI 1.9, 9.9]. pPROM were observed in 10.8% of the cases and 1.8% of the control (OR 6.6; 95% CI 1.7, 25.1). However, the frequencies of chorioamnionitis and the cervical length at second trimester were not different between the two groups. CONCLUSION: GWL is associated with SGA, small placenta, short umbilical cord length, preterm delivery and pPROM.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Famous Fat People: Jane Darwell, Academy-Award Winning Actress

Jane Darwell, Academy Award-winning actress
Periodically on this blog, we look at the lives of famous fat people of the past just for fun. So far we've looked at Sophie Tucker and Marie Dressler. Today we are talking about Jane Darwell.

Fat people are tremendously underrepresented in Hollywood, and even when they actually have a decent role, positive portrayals seem few and far between.

It's helpful to remember that there actually have been quite a few fat folk who have quietly had real accomplishments even if they often get overlooked.

Jane Darwell was an actress whose career spanned the stage, silent movies, and talkies, and who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

She was born Patti Woodard to a well-off family in Missouri in 1879. Her father was president of a railroad company.

She was bit by the acting bug and flirted with the possibilities of circus rider and opera singer before deciding to become an actress.

In an era when acting was considered a disreputable occupation for women, she chose to change her name to "Darwell" so she wouldn't embarrass her family.

Jane Darwell in "The Goose Girl," 1915
She started her career in stage productions in Chicago, then appeared in her first film in 1913 in her mid-30s. After working in films for a while, she went back to the stage for 15 years.

Theatrical publicity still, 1945
In 1930, she returned to films with "Tom Sawyer," and thereafter had an active career on both film and stage. The best roles of her career were as an older actress.

Shirley Temple and Jane Darwell in "Bright Eyes"
Because she was seen as "short, stout, and plain," she always played character parts, usually the grandmother, the housekeeper, etc. She appeared in five Shirley Temple films in those types of characters.

Going over a script with Rosalind Russell
Here she is as yet another maid on the set of "Craig's Wife," looking at a script with Rosalind Russell.

With Tyrone Power in "Jesse James"
Most often, though, she played the mother of one of the main characters. She was seen as the quintessential mother figure, ironic since she never had children herself. Here she is with Tyrone Power in "Jesse James."

She appeared in many high-profile films over the years, including "Huckleberry Finn" (1931), "Jesse James" (1939), "Gone with the Wind" (1939), "The Ox-Bow Incident" (1943), and "My Darling Clementine" (1946).

As Mrs. Merriwether (center) in "Gone with the Wind"
In "Gone with the Wind," she played Mrs. Dolly Merriwether, a Southern matron and society gossip. In this role, she was noted for having a booming vocal and physical presence on screen.

"The Ox-Bow Incident" (1943)
"The Ox-Bow Incident" let her venture outside the narrow confines of the typical mother/older woman role in Hollywood. She wore pants, rode astride, and was a take-charge woman in a sexist frontier town in this old Western about the moral dilemma of capital punishment.

An atypical role in "The Ox-Bow Incident"
In this role, she was sympathetic in that she was acting outside of gender norms and pushing back against sexist standards, but she was also a complex and dark character because of her blood-thirsty, vicious nature and enthusiastic embrace of hanging a man without a trial. It was a rare departure from the typical roles she played and she dug into it uncompromisingly.

Movie poster for "The Grapes of Wrath"
However, it was her role as Ma Joad in "The Grapes of Wrath" (1940) that won Darwell the most acclaim. Her quiet strength in keeping her family together despite the trials of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, losing the family farm, and the tough life of migrant farm work was the heart of the film in many ways.

Ma Joad taking one last look at some beloved mementos
One of her most powerful scenes was of Ma Joad silently going through her things in her house as the family is about to leave it forever. She looks at her mementos, mentally saying farewell, burning most of them because she knows they have no place in her new life. She holds a pair of nice earrings up to her ears one last time, remembering better times but realizing she'll never wear them again. Mournfully but resolutely, she leaves them behind.

The director, John Ford, doesn't rush the scene or clutter it up with dialogue. The lighting by cinematographer Gregg Toland is absolutely stunning. She is seen from behind the shoulder, darkly, in a broken mirror, as if lit by a single candle, highlighting her grief. Her image is striking in its poignancy, heartbreaking in its sorrow, but does not hesitate to show her resolute strength in leaving the past behind and moving on. Nearly every critic cites this scene as one of the best in the movie, with her acting and the stark lighting as its central core.

Dancing with Henry Fonda near the end of "Grapes of Wrath"
Darwell played Henry Fonda's mother, and their scenes together are really special. Their bond is crucial to the story and the tragic ending when he must leave the family to protect them. All through the film, they are very reserved with each other, as befits the culture of the people they represent. But they show the special bond between this mother and her son in small ways. By the end, when he sings to her as he dances with her, you can see their rapport. When he has to leave and they embrace one last time, it breaks your heart.

Henry Fonda wanted Darwell to play Ma Joad
Reportedly, Fonda had to campaign heavily to have Darwell cast as his mother. The director initially wanted to cast someone else in the role instead, someone thinner. But in the end, Darwell's careworn face (none of the actors were allowed to wear makeup) echoed Ma Joad's look perfectly. She was Every Woman facing hard times in the Great Depression.

Some critics have suggested her appearance was too "soft," "dumpy," "porcine," or "plump" for Steinbeck's steely family matriarch ─ as if a fat woman could not still be fat through hard times, or as if fatness could not represent the physical or emotional toughness needed to keep a family together through great difficulties. These comments reflect the authors' biases; Steinbeck's original work states clearly that Ma Joad is heavyset from childbearing but strong from years of hard work.

On the road as migrant farmworkers, in "The Grapes of Wrath"
Although her work was certainly sentimental in the typical acting style of the time, most critics have praised it, calling it a "a performance of quiet strength, dignity, and optimism," and "the performance of a lifetime." Some have even called her performance "one of the greatest mother figures the screen has given us."

Darwell receiving her Oscar for "Grapes of Wrath"
Certainly her peers and colleagues seem to have agreed with the latter opinions, awarding her the 1940 "Best Supporting Actress" Oscar for her work in the film, despite stiff competition from some amazing actresses and roles that year.

Saying goodbye to her son at the end of "The Grapes of Wrath"
Through her career, Darwell played Henry Fonda's mother so often ("Jesse James," "Grapes of Wrath," "Chad Hanna," "The Ox-Bow Incident," and "My Darling Clementine") that they joked about it. She said:
I've played Henry Fonda's mother so often that, whenever we run into each other, I call him "Son" and he calls me "Ma" just to save time.
As Mrs. Rogers in "There's Always Tomorrow"
In the 1950s, she began to scale back her roles as she faced health challenges in her 70s. Even so, she appeared in numerous TV shows as well as occasional movies like "There's Always Tomorrow" (1956) and "The Last Hurrah" (1958).

As Granny McCoy on "The Real McCoys" in 1961
In the 1960s, she was in her 80s and becoming frail. She still made occasional appearances, including on TV shows like "Wagon Train" and "The Real McCoys," working until 1964 and about age 84 or so.

Darwell's last role, in "Mary Poppins"
Her final role was as the Old Woman feeding the birds in "Mary Poppins" in 1964. According to IMDB, she refused the role at first, but Walt Disney personally visited her in order to convince her to do the role. It's a small but important part of the picture, a sweet but serious moment that is striking and memorable. 

She died a few years later at age 87 (nearly 88). She had appeared in over 170 films.

Critics would have us believe that fat people were non-existent in the olden days and that fat people could never make a career in Hollywood. They'd also have us believe that fat people never live to be old, always dying young.

Jane Darwell is another example that refutes these common misconceptions.


Monday, December 5, 2016

Dieters Gain More Weight in Pregnancy

Care providers often push "obese" women to lose weight before pregnancy in hopes that weight loss will reduce complications and make for a healthier pregnancy.

However, one consequence they often fail to consider is that the woman who loses weight before pregnancy often gains excessively during pregnancy.

This is logical; the body thinks it is starving already; once pregnant it feels it has to get even more efficient in order to sustain the mother and provide enough energy for the baby to grow. Thus, the body holds on even more to every calorie it does get and the woman experiences a higher weight gain during pregnancy, even though she may be eating perfectly reasonably.

Here is a brand-new study showing that women who practice "dietary restraint" (dieting, weight cycling, restrained eating) before pregnancy tend to gain more weight in pregnancy. The study noted:
Multivariable analysis revealed that restrained eating, weight cycling and dieting were associated with higher absolute weight gain, whilst weight cycling only was associated with excessive weight gain.
This is not the first study to find a higher gain in women who diet before pregnancy. Another study in 2008 had similar findings. It noted:
Restrained eating behaviors were associated with weight gains above the Institute of Medicine's recommendations for normal, overweight, and obese women.
And another study from 2013 showed that low-income women who experienced food insecurity and have a history of dieting may be particularly at risk for high gain during pregnancy.

Yet most caregivers continue to recommend weight loss before pregnancy to high-BMI women, and many researchers call quite aggressively for it. They do not seem to realize that the trade-off for significant weight loss before pregnancy may well be a high weight gain during pregnancy.

This is especially troublesome considering the intense pressure some care providers place on obese women to restrict their weight gain to almost nothing during pregnancy. It's like they are setting up women of size to fail from the get-go.

A better approach is to encourage women of all sizes to practice Health At Every Size®, which means to place the emphasis on eating well and getting regular exercise without emphasizing weight loss or the scale. 

There's nothing wrong with encouraging healthy habits before pregnancy, and this can be an important part of pre-conception care ─ but the emphasis on weight loss before pregnancy at all costs may be counter-productive.


Appetite. 2016 Dec 1;107:501-510. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2016.08.103. Epub 2016 Aug 19. Effects of dietary restraint and weight gain attitudes on gestational weight gain. Heery E, Wall PG, Kelleher CC, McAuliffe FM. PMID: 27545671
The aim of this study was to examine the impact of dietary restraint and attitudes to weight gain on gestational weight gain. This is a prospective cohort study of 799 women recruited at their first antenatal care visit. They provided information on pre-pregnancy dietary restraint behaviours (weight cycling, dieting and restrained eating) and attitudes to weight gain during pregnancy at a mean of 15 weeks' gestation. We examined the relationship of these variables with absolute gestational weight gain and both insufficient and excessive gestational weight gain, as defined by the Institute of Medicine recommendations. Multivariable analysis revealed that restrained eating, weight cycling and dieting were associated with higher absolute weight gain, whilst weight cycling only was associated with excessive weight gain. There was no evidence that the relationships between the dietary restraint measures and the weight gain outcomes were mediated by pregnancy-associated change in food intake. Increased concern about weight gain during pregnancy was independently associated with higher absolute weight gain and excessive weight gain. These relationships were attenuated following adjustments for pregnancy-associated change in food intake. These findings suggest that in early pregnancy, both a history of fluctuations in body weight and worry about gestational weight gain, are indicators of high pregnancy weight gain. Concern about weight gain during pregnancy seems to partly arise from an awareness of increased food intake since becoming pregnant. Prenatal dietary counselling should include consideration of past dieting practices and attitudes to pregnancy weight gain.
J Am Diet Assoc. 2008 Oct;108(10):1646-53. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2008.07.016. Dietary restraint and gestational weight gain. Mumford SL, Siega-Riz AM, Herring A, Evenson KR. PMID: 18926129
OBJECTIVE: To determine whether a history of preconceptional dieting and restrained eating was related to higher weight gains in pregnancy. DESIGN: Dieting practices were assessed among a prospective cohort of pregnant women using the Revised Restraint Scale. Women were classified on three separate subscales as restrained eaters, dieters, and weight cyclers. SUBJECTS: Participants included 1,223 women in the Pregnancy, Infection, and Nutrition Study. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Total gestational weight gain and adequacy of weight gain (ratio of observed/expected weight gain based on Institute of Medicine recommendations). STATISTICAL ANALYSES PERFORMED: Multiple linear regression was used to model the two weight-gain outcomes, while controlling for potential confounders including physical activity and weight-gain attitudes. RESULTS: There was a positive association between each subscale and total weight gain, as well as adequacy of weight gain. Women classified as cyclers gained an average of 2 kg more than noncyclers and showed higher observed/expected ratios by 0.2 units. Among restrained eaters and dieters, there was a differential effect by body mass index. With the exception of underweight women, all other weight status women with a history of dieting or restrained eating gained more weight during pregnancy and had higher adequacy of weight gain ratios. In contrast, underweight women with a history of restrained eating behaviors gained less weight compared to underweight women without those behaviors. CONCLUSIONS: Restrained eating behaviors were associated with weight gains above the Institute of Medicine's recommendations for normal, overweight, and obese women, and weight gains below the recommendations for underweight women. Excessive gestational weight gain is of concern because of its association with postpartum weight retention. The dietary restraint tool is useful for identifying women who would benefit from nutritional counseling prior to or during pregnancy with regard to achieving targeted weight-gain recommendations.
Appetite. 2013 Jun;65:178-84. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2013.01.018. Epub 2013 Feb 10. Food insecurity with past experience of restrained eating is a recipe for increased gestational weight gain. Laraia B, Epel E, Siega-Riz AM. PMID: 23402720
Food insecurity is linked to higher weight gain in pregnancy, as is dietary restraint. We hypothesized that pregnant women exposed to marginal food insecurity, and who reported dietary restraint before pregnancy, will paradoxically show the greatest weight gain. Weight outcomes were defined as total kilograms, observed-to-recommended weight gain ratio, and categorized as adequate, inadequate or excessive weight gain based on 2009 Institute of Medicine guidelines. A likelihood ratio test assessed the interaction between marginal food insecurity and dietary restraint and found significant. Adjusted multivariate regression and multinomial logistic models were used to estimate weight gain outcomes. In adjusted models stratified by dietary restraint, marginal insecurity and low restraint was significantly associated with lower weight gain and weight gain ratio compared to food secure and low restraint. Conversely, marginal insecurity and high restraint was significantly associated with higher weight gain and weight gain ratio compared to food secure and high restraint. Marginal insecurity with high restraint was significantly associated with excessive weight gain. Models were consistent when restricted to low-income women and full-term deliveries. In the presence of marginal food insecurity, women who struggle with weight and dieting issues may be at risk for excessive weight gain.

Monday, November 28, 2016

External Version for Breech After Prior Cesarean

An External Cephalic Version (ECV, or turning the baby manually to a head-down position) is one option open to people whose babies are breech. However, if you have had a prior cesarean, you may be told that this is not an option for you.

The evidence does not support excluding those with a prior cesarean from an External Cephalic Version. It's time for obstetric societies to update their guidelines about this, and it's time for more providers to routinely offer ECV.


The main benefit of External Cephalic Version is that it is often successful in getting the baby head-down, and a head-down birth is usually less risky than a breech birth.

Although many breech babies can be born vaginally just fine (especially those that meet certain criteria and/or are attended with alternate positioning), there are some increased risks to be aware of.

As a result, many care providers these days strongly prefer a cesarean or even schedule one automatically with a breech baby. Because some areas do not "allow" Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC), this can mean that all future babies must also be born by cesarean.

Therefore, getting the baby head-down via an External Cephalic Version can help prevent not just the first cesarean, but many automatic repeat cesareans and the serious complications that can happen with them.

Of course, like everything, ECV has both benefits and risks. The risks of ECV include premature labor, placental abruption (placenta detaching too early), hemorrhage, or fetal distress. Although real, these risks are relatively rare, usually less than 1%.

Obviously, sometimes ECV is also contraindicated. Most clinicians agree that ECV should not be attempted in the presence of pre-existing fetal distress, placenta previa, placental abruption, premature rupture of membranes, and certain uterine malformations. Low amniotic fluid levels may also be a relative contraindication.

A good review of the benefits and risks of ECV can be found here. Basically, ECV is able to turn babies head-down most of the time without many complications, and thus prevents many cesareans that would otherwise happen. This is important because cesarean rates are so high; ECV is quite an effective way to reduce the number of cesareans and probably many cases of resulting abnormal placental attachment.

Astonishingly, though, research shows that ECV is not used that much in many areas, despite its relative success rate and potential for lowering the cesarean rate.

Often, doctors don't even tell people that ECV is an option. They just schedule a cesarean and discourage people from exploring other options. One study from New Zealand estimated that only 26% of eligible patients with breech presentations were referred for ECV.

The situation is even worse if you have had a prior cesarean. For those with a scarred uterus, it's even harder to get an ECV because doctors have been taught that it's too dangerous.

The Controversy

People whose babies are breech and have a history of a prior cesarean are often told that ECV is simply not a choice for them because manipulation done during an ECV might make the uterus rupture along the scar from the prior cesarean.

The problem is that there is no actual proof that this is a substantial risk. No study has found this to be a problem, but just the mere fear of the possibility has led to its denial for this group. Currently, you can still find recommendations online that list prior cesarean (or any prior uterine surgery) as a contraindication to even attempting an ECV.

However, a policy of no External Cephalic Version for people with a prior cesarean is not supported by research.

There are a number of studies, including some very recent studies, that suggest that people with a prior cesarean SHOULD have the option to have an External Version if they want it.

The latest study (Weill 2016) had 158 women in the study group and found no increase in complications in the group with a prior cesarean. The success rate of ECV in this group was good (117/158, or 74%), and only 12 of these patients ended up with a cesarean during labor. That means that using ECV in the prior cesarean group prevented 105 automatic repeat cesareans. The authors summarized their findings this way:
ECV may be successfully performed in patients with a previous caesarean delivery. It is associated with a high success rate, and is not associated with an increase in complications.
Similarly, another recent study (Burgos 2014) found no increased rate of complications in the group with a prior cesarean. The authors concluded:
Uterine scar should not be considered a contraindication and ECV should be offered to women with previous caesarean section with breech presentation at term.
Another study (Abenhaim 2009) also found no increase in complications in those with a prior cesarean who had an ECV. The authors stated:
Concern about procedural success in women with a previous cesarean section is unwarranted and should not deter attempting an external cephalic version.
However, both RCOG (Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists) and ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) still hesitate to endorse ECV after prior cesarean. They say that there is not enough research to prove that it is safe. They point out that many of the studies on ECV and prior cesarean are fairly small, which limits their power.

That is a fair point. It's true that most studies have been relatively small and we don't have a huge pool of data to pull from, but taken together the results are quite encouraging.

One older review (Sela 2008) did a search of previous studies to pool the results. They found a total of 124 patients who had an ECV after prior cesarean. They added 42 patients from their own database. Adding in the 36 from the Abenhaim 2009 study, 70 from the Burgos 2014 study, and 158 from the Weill 2016 study, you get a total of 430 patients who have been documented to have an ECV after prior cesarean ─ all without any poor outcomes.

What this means is that there isn't ANY evidence to prove that ECV is unsafe in those with a prior cesarean. While the data pool is still somewhat limited, so far ALL of it supports ECV after prior cesarean.

Yet ACOG's recently revised 2016 guideline on ECV states, "Having had a previous cesarean delivery is not linked with lower rate of success; however, whether it magnifies risk for uterine rupture is not known." They cite only two studies from 1991 and 1998 and state, "Larger studies would be needed to establish the risk of uterine rupture." This ignores all the recent studies on ECV. This cavalier omission will continue to lead many care providers to continue to deny ECV to those with prior cesareans.

Although more research is needed, the bottom line is that the accumulating evidence certainly suggests that an ECV after a prior cesarean is not unduly risky and is a reasonable choice that should be offered to those who want it. 

A more reasonable view of the evidence has led the SOGC (the Canadian version of RCOG and ACOG) to state:
External cephalic version is not contraindicated in women with a previous Caesarean birth.
It's time for ACOG and RCOG to recognize that they are basing their guidelines more on fear than on the latest evidence and update their guidelines accordingly. Bravo to the Canadians for leading the way on this issue.

More research should be done ─ an excellent question is WHY hasn't more been done by now? My best guess is that it reflects the exaggerated fears of the care providers rather than a reasoned response. But given the absence of poor outcomes up till now, research on this topic should be expanded and in the meantime, ECV should be available to those with a prior cesarean.

In addition, it is time for more care providers to offer ECV as an option across the board. This is a sadly underused procedure that could certainly greatly impact cesarean rates and maternal morbidity, both by preventing the first cesarean and lowering the rate of automatic repeat cesareans that follow.


External Cephalic Version After Prior Cesarean

Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol. 2016 Sep 14. doi: 10.1111/ajo.12527. [Epub ahead of print] The efficacy and safety of external cephalic version after a previous caesarean delivery. Weill Y, Pollack RN. PMID: 27624629
BACKGROUND: External cephalic version (ECV) in the presence of a uterine scar is still considered a relative contraindication despite encouraging studies of the efficacy and safety of this procedure. We present our experience with this patient population, which is the largest cohort published to date. AIMS: To evaluate the efficacy and safety of ECV in the setting of a prior caesarean delivery. MATERIALS AND METHODS: A total of 158 patients with a fetus presenting as breech, who had an unscarred uterus, had an ECV performed. Similarly, 158 patients with a fetus presenting as breech, and who had undergone a prior caesarean delivery also underwent an ECV. Outcomes were compared. RESULTS: ECV was successfully performed in 136/158 (86.1%) patients in the control group. Of these patients, 6/136 (4.4%) delivered by caesarean delivery. In the study group, 117/158 (74.1%) patients had a successful ECV performed. Of these patients, 12/117 (10.3%) delivered by caesarean delivery. There were no significant complications in either of the groups. CONCLUSIONS: ECV may be successfully performed in patients with a previous caesarean delivery. It is associated with a high success rate, and is not associated with an increase in complications.
BJOG. 2014 Jan;121(2):230-5; discussion 235. doi: 10.1111/1471-0528.12487. Epub 2013 Nov 19. Is external cephalic version at term contraindicated in previous caesarean section? A prospective comparative cohort study. Burgos J, Cobos P, Rodríguez L, Osuna C, Centeno MM, Martínez-Astorquiza T, Fernández-Llebrez L. PMID: 24245964
OBJECTIVE: To determine if external cephalic version (ECV) can be performed with safety and efficacy in women with previous caesarean section. DESIGN: Prospective comparative cohort study. SETTING: Cruces University Hospital (Spain). POPULATION: Single pregnancy with breech presentation at term. METHODS: We compared 70 ECV performed in women with previous caesarean section with 387 ECV performed in multiparous women (March 2002 to June 2012). MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Success rate, complications of the ECV and caesarean section rate. RESULTS: The success rate of ECV in women after previous caesarean section was 67.1% versus 66.1% in multiparous women (P = 0.87). The logistic regression analysis confirmed this result (odds ratio 0.93, 95% CI 0.52-1.68; P = 0.82) adjusted by the variables associated with success of ECV. There were no complications in the previous caesarean section cohort. The vaginal delivery rate in the previous caesarean section cohort was 52.8% versus 74.9% in the multiparous cohort (P < 0.01). There were no cases of uterine rupture. CONCLUSION: Based on our data, we conclude that complications are uncommon with ECV in women with previous caesarean section, with a success rate comparable to that of multiparous women. Uterine scar should not be considered a contraindication and ECV should be offered to women with previous caesarean section with breech presentation at term.
J Perinat Med. 2009;37(2):156-60. doi: 10.1515/JPM.2009.006. External cephalic version among women with a previous cesarean delivery: report on 36 cases and review of the literature. Abenhaim HA1, Varin J, Boucher M. PMID: 19021458
AIMS: Whether or not women with a previous cesarean section should be considered for an external cephalic version remains unclear. In our study, we sought to examine the relationship between a history of previous cesarean section and outcomes of external cephalic version for pregnancies at 36 completed weeks of gestation or more. METHODS: Data on obstetrical history and on external cephalic version outcomes was obtained from the C.H.U. Sainte-Justine External Cephalic Version Database. Baseline clinical characteristics were compared among women with and without a history of previous cesarean section. We used logistic regression analysis to evaluate the effect of previous cesarean section on success of external cephalic version while adjusting for parity, maternal body mass index, gestational age, estimated fetal weight, and amniotic fluid index. RESULTS: Over a 15-year period, 1425 external cephalic versions were attempted of which 36 (2.5%) were performed on women with a previous cesarean section. Although women with a history of previous cesarean section were more likely to be older and para >2 (38.93% vs. 15.0%), there were no difference in gestational age, estimated fetal weight, and amniotic fluid index. Women with a prior cesarean section had a success rate similar to women without [50.0% vs. 51.6%, adjusted OR: 1.31 (0.48-3.59)]. CONCLUSION: Women with a previous cesarean section who undergo an external cephalic version have similar success rates than do women without. Concern about procedural success in women with a previous cesarean section is unwarranted and should not deter attempting an external cephalic version. 
Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2009 Feb;142(2):111-4. doi: 10.1016/j.ejogrb.2008.08.012. Epub 2008 Nov 18. Safety and efficacy of external cephalic version for women with a previous cesarean delivery. Sela HY, Fiegenberg T, Ben-Meir A, Elchalal U, Ezra Y. PMID: 19019528
OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the success and morbidity rates for attempted external cephalic version (ECV) in patients with one previous cesarean delivery (CD) and a breech-presenting fetus at term. STUDY DESIGN: This is a retrospective study of outcomes of ECV at our institution for all women with one previous CD and a breech-presenting fetus at term between January 1997 and June 2005. A literature review was also performed as a Medline search (1966-2006). RESULTS: ECV was attempted for 42 women with a breech-presenting fetus and previous CD. The success rate of ECV was 74.0%, and 84% of women with successful ECV delivered vaginally. All fetal and maternal outcomes were favorable. Only four Medline reports met our inclusion criteria, representing a total of 124 patients and a mean ECV success rate of 76.6%. Thus we assessed 166 cases of attempted ECV and find an average ECV success rate of 76.5% and favorable fetal and maternal outcomes. CONCLUSIONS: Women with a breech-presenting fetus at term and previous CD, who desire a trial of labor, should be counseled regarding the accumulating evidence about the efficacy and apparently safety of this procedure and may be offered an ECV attempt.
Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 1998 Oct;81(1):65-8. External cephalic version after previous cesarean section: a series of 38 cases. de Meeus JB1, Ellia F, Magnin G. PMID: 9846717
OBJECTIVE: To determine if external cephalic version (ECV) is a reasonable alternative to repeat cesarean section in case of breech presentation. STUDY DESIGN: Retrospective study of 38 women with one previous cesarean section and a breech presentation after 36 weeks of gestational age who have had at least one experience of ECV. Statistics used the Fisher's test with significance when P<0.05. RESULTS: Version attempts were successful in 25 of the 38 women (65.8%). Seventy-six percent of the successful version women went on to have vaginal birth after cesarean section. A total of 19 successful vaginal deliveries occurred (50%). Success rate of ECV was lowered when breech was the indication of the previous cesarean section. The vaginal delivery rate was increased after successful ECV in patients previously vaginally delivered, but this difference did not reached significance (P=0.057). No maternal or neonatal complications occurred. CONCLUSION: ECV is acceptable and effective in women with a prior low transverse uterine scar, when safety criteria are observed.
Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 1994 Apr;45(1):17-20. External cephalic version after previous cesarean section--a clinical dilemma. Schachter M, Kogan S, Blickstein I. PMID: 7913053
OBJECTIVES: To describe our limited experience with external cephalic version from breech to vertex presentation at term, with the use of ritodrine tocolysis, in women who had undergone a previous cesarean delivery. METHODS: Eleven parturients after previous cesarean delivery underwent external version after 36 gestational weeks, utilizing tocolysis with ritodrine, after excluding cases of low-lying placenta, severe oligohydramnion or ruptured membranes. Patients were then followed until delivery and scar examination was carried out after vaginal delivery, or at re-cesarean section, according to mode of delivery. RESULTS: All 11 attempted versions were successful. Six patients subsequently delivered vaginally and five by re-cesareansection. None of the uterine scars showed any signs of dehiscence. Three of the five infants delivered by re-cesarean section weighed over 4000 g, whereas all of the vaginally-delivered infants weighed under 3500 g. CONCLUSIONS: External cephalic version to vertex presentation after previous cesarean section was successful in all 11 carefully selected patients. No untoward effects were noted, and no signs of scar dehiscence were found. The safety and efficacy of this procedure after previous cesarean delivery should be examined further.
Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1991 Aug;165(2):370-2. External cephalic version after previous cesarean section. Flamm BL, Fried MW, Lonky NM, Giles WS. PMID: 1872341
Approximately 100,000 cesarean sections are performed each year in the United States because of breech presentation. Numerous studies have shown that external cephalic version can eliminate the need for many of these operations. However, because of the fear of uterine rupture, these studies have generally excluded patients who have undergone previous cesarean section. To evaluate the validity of this exclusion policy, we studied patients with one or more previous cesarean sections and breach presentations near term. Version attempts were successful in 82% of 56 patients who had undergone a previous cesarean section. Sixty-five percent of the successful version patients went on to have vaginal birth after cesarean section. There were no serious maternal or fetal complications associated with the version attempts. We conclude that external cephalic version is a reasonable option in patients with prior low transverse cesarean section.