The Long-Term Effects of Gestational Obesity on Offspring
— By Andrea M. Pampaloni, Ph.D.
Research continues to demonstrate the effect of a mother’s weight on her offspring.
The link between a mother’s weight before, during, and after pregnancy and its effect on her child is well-established. In fact, a mother’s weight is the strongest predictor of obesity in her children, and recent studies both support this view and offer additional areas of concern specific to the mother-child obesity link.
New Research Confirms the Mother-Child Obesity Link
A study published in Obesity looked at the impact of a mother’s weight change patterns during pregnancy and the effect on her child through the age of 14. Four weight change trends during pregnancy were identified that were associated with the rate of weight gain during each trimester. Findings indicated that daughters who were born to mothers who gained weight quickly upon becoming pregnant had the highest body mass index (BMI) and fat percentages and the largest waist circumference. Similar findings did not apply to male offspring in this or any of the four groups, possibly due to gender-related growth and development, and/or differences in how male and female fetuses respond to prenatal conditions.1
Additionally, a meta-analysis of 17 observational studies including over 140,000 mother-child pairs found a connection between maternal pre-pregnancy BMI and hypertension in offspring, with incremental increases in systolic and diastolic blood pressure based on maternal weight gain. This correlation held regardless of obesity in the offspring.2
Finally, medical research using mice found that maternal obesity resulted in impaired cardiac function in offspring, whose hearts had thicker walls, weighed more, and showed indications of inflammation. Again, gender differences were noted, and although hundreds of genes were altered in both male and female fetuses, fewer than 10 percent we common to both. Also, male offspring were impaired from the outset while females’ cardiac function deteriorated progressively. A key finding offered by the researchers is that this study is the first to show that the heart is “programmed by the nutrients it receives in fetal life.”3 Findings such as those noted here may provide the motivation and inspiration necessary to make lifestyle changes prior to pregnancy that can have positive, lasting consequences.
Very Low Calorie Diets and Pregnancy
Very Low Calorie Diets are a safe and effective option for women prior to pregnancy to initiate weight loss and start implementing activities and behaviors that can have a lifelong impact on their children.
While sharing direct findings such as these may seem counter to sharing the joy of pregnancy, providing the big picture view early on allows parents to become better informed on critical issues that will affect them and their children. This current research supports and confirms the link between mothers’ weight during pregnancy and the potential negative, long-term impact on their children. As such, it offers strong support for fully informing women who are considering pregnancy about the health benefits of weight loss not only for themselves, but also their child, both in utero and in life.
- Gestational Weight Change and Childhood Body Composition Trajectories from Pregnancy to Early Adolescence
- Maternal Overnutrition Elevates Offspring’s Blood Pressure – A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis
- Maternal Obesity Causes Fetal Cardiac Hypertrophy and Alters Adult Offspring Myocardial Metabolism in Mice
About the Author: Dr. Andrea Pampaloni has over 20 years of communication experience across corporate, academic, nonprofit and government sectors. She provides research and writing services on a range of business issues and industry-specific topics to prepare white papers, articles, proposals, presentations, technical content, and speaking points, as well as marketing-communications content such as blogs, website content, newsletters, news releases and award submissions. Dr. Pampaloni’s research findings have been presented at national and international conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals, and she is a ghostwriter for three books, a Forbes article, and several corporate blogs.