(Health Secrets Newsletter) The children of obese women are more likely to suffer from a variety of conditions ranging from autism to cardiovascular disease, according to a number of studies into the impact of maternal weight on children’s health. In recent months various studies have been published on the possible health risks that a child is exposed to when he/she is born to a mother who is obese or suffers from another metabolic condition. In a world where obesity rates are continually increasing, the idea that maternal obesity can predispose a child to health problems is a worrying one.
Maternal obesity and autism
The first study was carried out by the University of California and Vanderbilt University and was published in the journal Pediatrics. It compared children with autism, or developmental delay, with children with typical development, and then looked at their mother’s health during pregnancy to see if a pattern could be established.
The researchers concluded that children with autism, or delayed development, were considerably more likely to have been born to a mother with obesity (BMI of 30 or more), diabetes, or high blood pressure, than children with typical development. Although the research is not sufficient to establish a direct link between metabolic disease in pregnancy and developmental problems in children, it does highlight a concerning association.
Maternal Obesity and General Health
The second study, which was a long term study by the Hebrew University Hadassah in Israel and the University of Washington, was published in the journal Circulation. It looked at the link between a mother’s BMI before and during pregnancy and various indicators of their child’s health in adulthood.
The research began in 1974-76 when the maternal weight before and during pregnancy of many mothers was recorded as part of the larger Jerusalem Perinatal study. 1,400 people, who were born during this period and whose mothers’ data had been recorded, were examined between 2007 and 2009, at the age of 32. They were tested for BMI, waist circumference, blood pressure, and levels of insulin and fat in the blood.
The conclusions of the research were that children of women who had a high BMI before pregnancy were more likely to have a high BMI, large waist circumference, high blood pressure, high blood levels of insulin and fat, and low levels of good cholesterol. These are all risk indicators for conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, so it seems that a mother’s pre pregnancy weight can impact her child’s chances of developing these conditions. Gaining excessive weight during pregnancy also increases the risk of many of these indicators.
The importance of healthy maternal weight
Both of these studies highlight the importance of maternal health and weight in the future health of their children. In addition to these considerations, women who are considering having children should be aware that being obese can lead to problems conceiving in the first place, and can then increase the risk of pregnancy or birth complications. Did you know that more than half of the women who die during pregnancy are overweight or obese?
Obesity increases the risk of miscarriage, gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, blood clots, genital and urine infections, hemorrhage after the birth, and a wound infection if you have a c-section. Overweight women are also more likely to have problems with breastfeeding, to have a baby with an abnormally high birth weight, and to need an induction or instrumental delivery. Obese women are also more likely to have a premature birth, a still birth, or children with birth defects.
The best way to reduce the risk of pregnancy and birth complications, and to give you child the best chances for health later in life, is to achieve and maintain a healthy weight before you get pregnant. By making long term and sustainable changes to your diet and getting regular exercise, you can reduce your BMI to a level that will make pregnancy healthier for you and your baby.