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Summary

The prevalence of obesity continues to increase despite preventive strategies. Obese parturients are at increased risk of having either concurrent medical problems or superimposed antenatal diseases such as pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes. Moreover, they have a tendency to labour abnormally contributing to increased instrumental delivery and Caesarean section. Obesity is a risk factor for anaesthesia related maternal mortality. Morbidly obese women must be considered as high-risk and deserve an anaesthetic consultation during their antenatal care. The significant difficulty in administering epidural analgesia should not preclude their use in labour. A more liberalised use of regional techniques may be a means to further reduce anaesthesia-related maternal mortality in the obese population. The mother's life should not be jeopardised to save a compromised fetus. Prophylactic placement of an epidural catheter when not contraindicated in labouring morbidly obese women would potentially decrease anaesthetic and perinatal complications associated with attempts at emergency provision of regional or general anaesthesia. Early mobilisation, aggressive chest physiotherapy and adequate pain control are essential components of effective postoperative care.