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Excessive pregnancy and pre-pregnancy weight gain results in obese child, says UK study

Posted:  Monday, March 16, 2015

Unhealthy weight gain among overweight/obese women in pregnancy has been associated with infant size and body composition but now a study by UK researchers have shed light on its long term effects.. The study found that excessive pregnancy weight gain was associated with not only greater overall and abdominal fat but also obesity in children at 7 years of age. Additionally, excessive pre-pregnancy weight gain was found to be associated with an almost 300 percent increase in the risk of childhood obesity.

Published in the journal Maternal & Child Nutrition, the study evaluated the effects of gestational weight gain on childhood obesity risk among low-income and multi-ethnic urban population which is characterized by a high risk of obesity. Data on 727 African-American and Dominican mothers was collected from the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health Mothers and Newborns Study from 1998 to 2013.

The researchers adjusted the results for pre-pregnancy BMI (body mass index), maternal education, ability to afford food in pregnancy, and previous pregnancies. Women whose first prenatal visit was after 20 weeks gestation, who self-reported conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, HIV status, or those who reported drug/alcohol use in pregnancy were excluded.

In the study, 45 percent of the mothers were overweight or obese and 64 percent of them gained further weight during pregnancy.

The researchers found that by 7 years of age, 22 percent of the children born to the women studied were obese. Additionally on average, 24 percent of their body mass was comprised of fat tissue. The 2009 Institute of Medicine Guidelines for weight gain recommends that pregnant women gain weight within set ranges according to their pre-pregnancy BMI to bring about positive prenatal, birth and even long term health outcomes.

"Our findings suggest that weight gain in pregnancy above the Institute's recommendations is strongly associated with obesity in childhood. A stronger focus on helping pregnant women meet the Institute of Medicine's targets for healthy weight gain during pregnancy is needed,” said the researchers. Since pregnancy weight gain may have lasting impact on not only immediate health of the child but also can childhood obesity and risk of chronic diseases during adulthood childhood health, it would be wise if mothers-to-be keep a close watch on their weight.

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