Researchers from Children’s Hospital in Boston and Columbia University in New York, report that women who put on a lot of weight during pregnancy are more likely to have babies having high birth weight and is linked to the risk of childhood obesity. High birth weight is associated with higher body mass index (BMI) later in life. The study does not make it clear whether the weight gain of the mother independently contributed to the risk of obesity in the child irrespective of the genes. One of the earlier studies had shown that a child’s weight is more associated with maternal weight, which indicates that pregnancy, not only genetics, plays an important role in child’s weight.
In this study, the researchers looked at the maternal weight gain and the child’s weight at multiple single pregnancies in the same mother. This helped them to avoid the effects of weight gain due to genetics. The results showed that there is a consistent link between weight gained during pregnancy and high birth weight babies.
The results, published in the journal, Lancet, showed that:
- For every kilogram of weight gained by the mother, weight of the child increased by 7.35 g
- Children born to mothers who gained more than 24 kg during pregnancy were 150 g heavier at birth, when compared to children born to women who gained between 8 kg and 10 kg.
- Women who gained more than 24 kg during pregnancy were more likely to have babies weighing 4 kg or more when compared to women who gained only 8 kg to 10 kg.
The findings are based on the data from the birth registry data from Michigan and New Jersey. In this study, data from 513,501 women and their 1,164,750 children born between January 1989 and December 2003 were analyzed. Women who had diabetes, pregnancies shorter than 37 weeks or more than 41 weeks, infants more than 7 kg were all excluded from the study.
In the last three decades, childhood obesity has increased three times, as per the report by CDC. This condition is one of the major risk factor for chronic problems like cardiovascular disease, cancer, arthritis. Researchers suggest that recommending weight management and prevention strategies may help to reduce the weight gain in children. High birth weight increases the risk of higher BMI later in life and the findings in the study clearly shows that weight gain during pregnancy is related to long-term risk of obesity in children, say researchers.
Neal Halfon and Michael C. Lu from the Center for Healthier Children Families Communities at the University of California in Los Angeles, says that more studies are required to help women of reproductive age to attain and maintain healthy weight during pregnancy. Now that the focus is on pre-conceptional weight, appropriate interventions can be used to help women to conceive at a healthier weight.