'I do not want to wait until she's dying before I intervene'
Nearing the end of the first year in her seven-year term as master, the big challenge, she says, is managing the number of births, “that are way above our capacity, in an environment of diminishing resources”.
A mother of four children, aged from six to 14 , Mahony is grateful for all the support staff have given her in her first year. The job of an obstetrician, she adds, is “always extraordinary but desperately unforgiving”.
Cutting childhood obesity
Simple lifestyle changes, such as exercise during pregnancy and paying close attention to diet, have reduced the insulin requirements of woman attending the diabetic team at the National Maternity Hospital (NMH).
“This is really objective, clinical success – very exciting,” says Dr Rhona Mahony, who addressed a medical seminar on Maternal and Infant Health and the Effect of Changing Lifestyles in Dublin last Saturday .
Maternal obesity is the big challenge for the health services in Ireland when focusing on the first 1,000 days in a child’s life – during pregnancy and up to the second birthday. This period is very important for laying down the future health of that child, Dr Mahony told The Irish Times ahead of her talk.
There is a much greater understanding now of the cycle between maternal weight gain, large babies at birth, the risk of childhood obesity and then heart disease, stroke and all the diseases that go with obesity, she explains. Thirty-eight per cent of women attending the NMH are overweight and one per cent are morbidly obese, with a BMI of over 40 (18-25 is normal weight range),
With the many benefits of breastfeeding including a reduction in the risk of childhood obesity, Mahony says she would love to have more resources to give to the NMH breastfeeding team who, she says, are really passionate about supporting women. Some 69.7 per cent of mothers start breastfeeding at the hospital.
Asked if she was uncomfortable about Saturday’s seminar for health professionals being sponsored by a formula milk company, she said: “I don’t have any political agenda. I am just delighted to take this opportunity to discuss good nutrition in pregnancy and to promote breastfeeding,” adding that she would donate her fee towards breastfeeding support.