A NEW study has shown that maternity care for overweight pregnant women costs 20pc more than for those of normal weight.
A recent study of 4,372 expectant mothers found that 58pc of the women were either overweight or obese.
The extra weight can lead to gestational diabetes, according to the study team.
Maternity care for normal weight expectant mothers is just over €4,000; for those who are obese it jumps to €4,872.
And for those who have gestational diabetes, the cost soars to more than €6,000 because of the extra care requirements.
Prof Fidelma Dunne, head of the school of medicine at NUI Galway, said the more overweight an expectant mother is, the more the costs of birth increase.
"We looked at the cost implications for 4,372 women, of whom 854 had gestational diabetes and also where a significant proportion of women were overweight or obese.
"If you develop gestational diabetes, it increases maternity care costs by 34pc," added Prof Dunne, who is also principal investigator of Atlantic Diabetes in Pregnancy (Atlantic Dip).
The average costs for maternity care for expectant mothers who do not have gestational diabetes is €4,028.
For women who are obese, maternity costs come in on average at €4,873.
"What we found, if you have obesity, where your body mass index (BMI) is over 30, it increases maternity care costs by 21pc," Prof Dunne said
"If you are overweight, costs go up by about 5pc."
"We know that 58pc of the pregnant women in the west of Ireland are either overweight or are obese at the time they become pregnant," she said.
Prof Dunne said the weight and diabetes issue had to be addressed by health officials.
"Tackling obesity and gestational diabetes requires a proper screening programme to be put in place," she said.
"The more overweight the mother, the more the costs go up," she added.
The women who were covered in the study attended maternity hospitals at Galway, Ballinasloe, Castlebar, Sligo and Letterkenny.
The research was funded by the Health Research Board to research diabetes and pregnancy in the west of Ireland.
Atlantic Dip aims to improve the outcomes of pregnancy for women with diabetes by promoting evidence-based best practice before, during and after pregnancy.