News article

Obesity During Pregnancy Linked To Raised Asthma

Posted:  Friday, August 01, 2014

Obesity and increased weight gain during pregnancy could increase the risk for childhood asthma or wheeze in offspring, according to a study by researchers.

Maternal obesity during pregnancy has been linked to high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, caesarean section, and higher risk for preterm birth, and an increased number of some birth defects such as neural tube defects and spina bifida, the authors write. Fetal exposure to some environmental and lifestyle factors during pregnancy also could influence later childhood development and predisposition to some diseases, such as asthma.

Women who are obese during pregnancy may be more likely to have children with asthma than normal-weight mothers, a new review suggests. "We found that, compared with children born from mothers of normal weight, those whose mothers were overweight or obese during pregnancy had up to 20 to 30 percent higher odds of asthma," said lead researcher Dr. Erick Forno, an assistant professor of paediatrics at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Forno noted that it is important that all women of reproductive age maintain a healthy weight, especially if they are trying to get pregnant.

"It is also important to have adequate weight management and healthy nutrition during pregnancy, because excessive weight gain during pregnancy also increases the risk of childhood asthma. This is of course in addition to all the other benefits of a healthy weight and diet," he said.

To see how a mother's weight might be linked to the development of asthma in her children, Forno and his colleagues reviewed 14 previously published studies that included over 100,000 mother-child pairs.

The risk of a child having asthma was 36 percent higher for mothers who were obese during pregnancy compared to normal-weight expectant mothers. The study authors suggest that, for women who do not have a history of asthma, the effect of obesity during pregnancy may be an even stronger influence on whether or not a child develops asthma.

Though there appeared to be a slight association between an overweight mom-to-be and asthma in her offspring, the association wasn't statistically significant, according to the study.

Dr. David Mendez, a neonatologist at Miami Children's Hospital, said that this study asks a question that only additional research can answer. Such research would need to take into account the mother's history of asthma and the baby's exposure to cigarette smoke, among other factors, he said.

"This kind of study would take years to do because you have to wait for children to grow up," said Mendez, who was not involved with the study.

"We already know maternal obesity and increased weight during pregnancy are bad for the mother and bad for the baby," he added. Being overweight can result in low-birth-weight infants, preterm delivery and caesarean delivery.

"There are short-term reasons why mothers shouldn't gain too much weight during pregnancy, and now it appears that there may also be long-term benefits to doing that as well," Mendez said.