Pregnancy Weight: How a High BMI Affects Your Baby

First Posted: Oct 02, 2013 12:11 PM EDT

A recent study shows that pregnancy weight gain may be linked to childhood obesity.

Princeton University researchers examined 41,133 mothers and their children in Arkansas, noting that high pregnancy weight gain increased the risk of obesity in children through age 12.

"Excessive weight gain during pregnancy could have a significant effect on future obesity among children," said study author Janet Currie, Henry Putnam Professor of Economics and Policy Affairs and director of the Center for Health and Wellbeing in the Woodrow Wilson School, via a press release. "Programs to limit pregnancy weight gain could help prevent some cases of childhood obesity. Pregnancy is a good time to target obesity prevention programs, because women may be especially motivated to change their health behaviors," Currie said.

Previous research has observed familial tendencies toward obesity, nothing that children whose mothers are obese or gain a lot of weight during pregnancy are more likely to be obese themselves. Yet these relationships may be due to a number of confounding factors including shared genes, common environmental factors and socioeconomic and demographic determinants rather than biological effects of the maternal diet.

Through their novel study design used to examine various causes of childhood obesity, the researchers were able to link the birth records of mothers with two or more children to school records that included the child's body mass index (BMI) at an average age of 11.9 years and then made statistical comparisons between siblings.

When comparing siblings, on average, they found that the same relative distribution of obesity genes, the same home environment and the same socioeconomic and demographic influences all played a major role in weight.

This current study shows that excessive weight gain during pregnancy can potentially increase the birth weight of an infant and negatively affect both the child's and mother's health in the long-run.

"Excessive weight gain during pregnancy could be contributing to the obesity epidemic," said Currie. "Children whose mothers gained too much weight during pregnancy-that is 40 lbs. or more had an 8 percent increased risk of obesity."

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More information regarding the study can be found via the journal PLOS Medicine

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