"From a public health point of view, what if every specialty trained M.D. chose to only take care of low-risk patients?" said Dauterive. "We would not have enough providers caring for the segment of the population that needs the specialized care the most. Of note, if an obstetrician will only see low-risk patients, then they are basically doing the job of a midwife at a much higher cost, with outcomes that are statistically not better."
But Dr. Brad Imler, president of the American Pregnancy Association, said doctors avoid overweight patients more out of fear of getting sued than because they discriminate.
"Everybody needs an investment in their pregnancy to increase the probability of a healthy baby," said Imler. "But I understand the challenge and concern. Women who are overweight are looking at a greater chance of complications. With our society being prone to litigation that puts doctors in a liable situation, or a position of concern. Either way, neither situation is good for the health of the baby."
"A woman can do everything right during her pregnancy and still have complications," said Imler. "When that happens, most people want someone to be held accountable. That affects public health."
Obstetric experts have been "falling off the map" for years because of high cost and the fear of lawsuits, said Imler. "It is one of the main concerns of ACOG (the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecologists)," said Imler. "It's cheaper and they make more money to do straight gynecology."
"I think doctors gladly seek to care for a woman whom he knows needs the care and would seek to provide her with proper education and foster healthy pregnancy in spite of challenges faced with whatever lifestyle factors," said Imler. "That is, as long as, if complications arise, he or she is not going to be sued."