• Article

Risk factors for pre-eclampsia among Zimbabwean women maternal arm circumfrence and other anthropometric measures of obesity

Maternal pre-pregnancy obesity is a risk factor for pre-eclampsia (proteinuric hypertension in pregnancy) among North American and European women. We studied the relationship between maternal obesity and risk of pre-eclampsia among Zimbabwean women. A case-control study was conducted at Harare Maternity Hospital, Harare, Zimbabwe, between June 1995 and April 1996. Study participants were 144 women with pre-eclampsia and 194 normotensive women serving as controls. Maternal weight, height and mid-arm circumference were measured and recorded during study participants' postpartum hospital admission. Maternal mid-arm circumference, considered to be relatively stable during pregnancy among women of developing countries, was used as the primary indicator of maternal pre-pregnancy obesity. Logistic regression procedures were used to estimate odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals. There were linear trends in risk of pre-eclampsia with increasing mid-arm circumference, increasing weight and increasing body mass index. After adjusting for potential confounding factors, women in the highest quintile for mid-arm circumference (28–39 cm) were 4.4 times more likely to have had their pregnancy complicated by pre-eclampsia than women in the lowest quintile (21–23 cm). Odds ratios of similar magnitude were observed for the other anthropometric measures. To our knowledge, this is the first study to demonstrate a positive association between maternal obesity and pre-eclampsia risk in a black African population. Biological mechanisms thought to explain this relatively consistent epidemiological finding include endothelial cell injury, possibly resulting from hyperlipidaemia.


Mahomed, K., Williams, M. A., Woelk, G., Jenkins-Woelk, L., Mudzamiri, S., Longstaff, L., & Sorensen, T. K. (1998). Risk factors for pre-eclampsia among Zimbabwean women: maternal arm circumfrence and other anthropometric measures of obesity. Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, 12(3), 253-262. DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-3016.1998.00116.x