ALMOST a quarter of pregnant women seen by the Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust are obese at the time of their first screening.

Health professionals have warned women could be putting both their own and their baby’s health at risk by not losing weight before getting pregnant.

According to data from NHS Digital, about 4,045 women were weighed at their first antenatal booking appointment with the trust in the 12 months to April.

Of these, 23 per cent were found to have a Body Mass Index of 30 or above, placing them in the obese range.

A further 27 per cent were deemed overweight, with a BMI of 25 or over.

When the number of underweight women is taken into account, the figures mean only half of all expectant mothers seen by the trust were considered to be at a healthy weight at this stage of their pregnancy, which is typically between the ten and 12 week mark.

According to both the NHS and the Royal College of Midwives, obese women are more at risk of a range of complications during pregnancy.

These include a higher chance of miscarriage, high birth weight, gestational diabetes, premature birth, pre-eclampsia and still births.

They may also suffer complications during childbirth, with the RCM warning that overweight and obese women are at a greater risk of having to have a caesarean section or experiencing haemorrhages or shoulder dystocia - where the baby gets stuck during delivery.

Across England, almost half of women were heavier than advised at their booking appointment over the same 12 month period.

About 21 per cent were obese, while more than 27 per cent were overweight.

Tam Fry, spokesman for the National Obesity Forum, described the numbers as “saddening”.

He said: “Getting into shape before a conception and ensuring that you are eating healthily has been a long advocated message but too few heed it.

"A woman unhealthily overweight can not only be a health risk for her foetus but also for herself.”