A British research team, led by Debbie Lawlor, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, tracked 6,700 women over a nine year period. The women’s weight gain during pregnancy was tracked, as well as their children’s weight and body size. They found that the children of mothers who gained excess amounts of weight during pregnancy had several risk factors for heart disease. The children had more body fat, higher blood pressure, higher markers of inflammation in the blood, and lower levels of “good” cholesterol.
The study looks at women who gain more weight than the recommended amount during pregnancy, not women who are already overweight before and during pregnancy. According to the UK Institute of Medicine’s (IOM), average sized women should gain no more than 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy. Overweight women are recommended to gain 15 to 25 pounds, while underweight women it is recommended that they gain 28 to 40 pounds.
“More studies are needed that look at the whole picture to see if there is an optimal weight that will not increase the risk of low birth weight babies and not increase the risk of negative outcomes in the mother and baby at the time of birth and later in their lives,” Lawlor said in a news release.
The health risks were most evident in children whose mothers gained more than one pound per week during the first trimester.
“Our results show that in trying to work out what the ideal weight gain in pregnancy should be, we need to consider later outcomes in the offspring as well as outcomes around the time of birth,” said Lawlor. “But, I believe we are still a long way from being absolutely clear what the optimal weight gain in pregnancy is for the best outcomes in the short- and long term for both mother and child.”
This study claims to be the most detailed one of its kind, assessing the links between maternal weight gain and childhood health. – Summer, staff writer
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