Blame mommy for baby fat


Written on Tuesday, April 03, 2007 by Gemini

Overweight mothers risk having kids who are naturally inclined to obesity, say researchers

Pregnant women who gain excessive or even appropriate weight, according to current guidelines, are four times more likely than women who gain inadequate weight to have a baby who becomes overweight in early childhood, according to researchers. “Maternal weight gain during pregnancy is an important determinant of birth outcomes,” says lead author Emily Oken, instructor in the Department of Ambulatory Care and Prevention – Harvard Medical School, that carried out the study published in the latest issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

“The research suggests that pregnancy weight gain can influence child health even after birth and may cause the obstetric community to rethink current guidelines,” she added.Oken and colleagues examined data from 1,044 mother-child pairs to study whether pregnancy weight gain within or above the recommended range increased the risk of a child being overweight at age three. The authors calculated total gestational weight gain as the difference between the last weight recorded before delivery and pre-pregnancy weight.

Women were categorised as having gained inadequate, adequate, or excessive weight according to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) guidelines set in 1990. Similar guidelines are also used in India. In this study, 51 percent of women gained excessive weight, 35 percent gained adequate weight, and 14 percent gained inadequate weight, according to the IOM guidelines. Women with adequate or excessive gain were approximately four times more likely than those with inadequate gain to have an overweight child, as measured at age 3.

The authors defined overweight as a BMI (Body mass index) greater than the 95th percentile for the child’s age and sex.“Our study shows that excessive weight gain during pregnancy was directly associated with having an overweight child,” says Oken. “Just like adults, children who are overweight are at higher risk for a number of health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol.”

More weight gain may also cause undesirable birth outcomes, such as increase in babies born at high birth weight and cesarean section, and is associated with higher postpartum weight retention and later risk of maternal obesity. Even mothers with adequate gain according to the IOM guidelines had a substantially higher risk of having overweight children than mothers with inadequate weight gain, with no difference in risk of undesirable birth outcomes, such as small or large size for gestational age or birth by caesarean section.

Also, the amount of weight gained during pregnancy may alter the environment within the womb, not only influencing foetal growth but also possibly affecting the child’s weight in future.“Because childhood obesity is increasing in prevalence and effective treatment remains elusive, preventing childhood obesity remains critical,” says Oken.

“The IOM may need to re-evaluate its recommendations for gestational weight gain, considering not only birth outcomes but also risk of obesity for both mother and child. While our study signals the potential need to adjust guidelines, further studies will need to occur to determine just what the appropriate weights should be.”

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