Extreme Pregnancy Weight Gain Ups Child Obesity Risk

Aug 6, 2010
Megan Bedard is a sucker for sustainable agriculture and a good farmers market, she likes writing about food almost as much as eating it.
Eat for two—but be careful about packing on too many pounds. (Photo: mahalie/Creative Commons)

A momma's gotta eat when she's in the midst of a pregnancy. But the age-old advice to "eat for two" must be heeded with caution.

A new study reports that women who pack on too many extra pounds during pregnancy are more likely to birth bigger babies—and those babies are more likely to experience childhood obesity, regardless of genetics.

A study at Children's Hospital in Boston and Columbia University examined multiple single pregnancies in the same mother to determine the effects of maternal weight gain.

The researchers also wanted to exclude the effects of weight gain from genetic components.

What they found was a consistent correlation between weight gain among mothers and bigger babies.

Their findings were published in The Lancet, and were as follows:

  • For every kilogram (kg) a mother gained (1 kg = 2.2 lbs), the baby’s birth weight increased by 7.35 grams (0.25 oz).
  • Compared with infants born to women who gained between 8 kg and 10 kg (17.5 and 22 lbs), infants born to mothers who gained more than 24 kg (52.5 lbs) during pregnancy were about 150 g (5.3 oz) heavier at birth.
  • Mothers who gained more than 24 kg during pregnancy were more than twice as likely to deliver a baby weighing 4,000 grams (8 lbs 13 oz) or more, compared with women who gained only 8 kg to 10 kg.

According to WebMD, interest in the effects of maternal weight gain have piqued because of a sudden swelling of childhood obesity numbers. Between 1980 and 2006, childhood obesity numbers tripled.

The risks that come with obesity are high. According to the Centers for Disease Control:

  • Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. In a population-based sample of 5- to 17-year-olds, 70 percent of obese youth had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
  • Children and adolescents who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.
  • Obese youth are more likely than youth of normal weight to become overweight or obese adults, and therefore more at risk for associated adult health problems, including heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis.

Photo: mahalie/Creative Commons via Flickr

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