Weight Issues During Pregnancy May Increase Health Risk in Babies

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Expectant moms are invariably expected to ‘eat for two’ and while the age-old suggestion is made to make mothers eat the right quality of food, it is invariably the quantity of food that increases. In fact, it has been found that one in six mothers become overweight within the first three months of pregnancy. While weight issues complicate deliveries, a new study suggests it also puts babies into greater risk of developing problems later.

The research that was published in Obesity Reviews journal, examined findings from across the world on the impact of maternal weight on child development. It found that children born to mothers who were overweight during pregnancy were at a greater risk of developing problems like lower IQ, eating disorders and psychosis.

The research also found that while in younger children the problems included higher chance of suffering from attention deficit disorder, and a lower than average IQ, adolescent children were put to higher risk of eating disorders. Maternal weight even affected adulthood, when children were more vulnerable to disorders such as schizophrenia.

The report published in the journal is a compilation of many researches done around the world. One study by McMaster University, in Ontario Canada found that every unit of increased Body Mass Index (BMI) in a pregnant woman was associated with a significant reduction in the IQ of the child. BMI is the weight of a person in kilograms divided by the square of her height in meters.

Of the 12 cases studied they found that the average IQ of baby with obese mothers was five points lower than babies whose mothers. Japaneese researchers on the other hand correlated adulthood problems with maternal weight saying that every unit increase in BMI of pregnant women resulted in chance of developing schizophrenia in adulthood by 24 per cent.

Another study by researchers in Australia revealed that there were 15 percent more likelihood of a child having eating disorder with every unit increase in BMI of expectant mom.

The researchers though are yet not clear about the reasons for these heightened risks. It is suggested that it may be due to hormonal, cardiovascular and immune system changes during pregnancy affected by weight.

The studies took into consideration factors like socio-economic background of obese parents, they did not go into further details like the extent to which a risk was heightened or the genetic makeup affecting the risks, and also the way parents brought up their families.

In an earlier study by Teeside University it had been found out that more than 100,000 babies each year were at risk of serious problems or dying due to obesity in women that led to increased complications during pregnancy and put extra strain on the woman’s body.

The risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, blood clots, miscarriages and still-births, are known to be associated with weight gain. Also a problem with pregnant women with a higher than average BMI is the layers of fat tissues may hide serious defects during scans.

Tam Fry from the National Obesity Forum said that many women were unaware that they needed to be of a healthy weight even before thinking of starting a family. He also mentioned that some women, though were of an average weight, they tended to over indulge during pregnancy resulting in becoming overweight during those crucial nine months.

He said, “There is still a lot of folklore about pregnancy, and a lot of women who still believe that ‘eating for two’ is the way to nurture their child. Those kinds of myths are really dangerous – in fact, pregnant women only need about an extra 200 calories a day in the last trimester. There are a lot of serious risks from obesity that we already know about, but this study shows others are still emerging, and the picture is incredibly worrying,” he added.

In another study this year it was found that 16 in 1,000 babies suffered fetal or infant death if their mothers had a BMI greater than 30 in early pregnancy, compared with 9 deaths per 1,000 babies among those with a healthy BMI.

Another find of separate studies were the increased dangers of developmental problems like spina bifida and neural tube defects in infants of overweight moms. Even babies higher than 10 pounds weight had a heightened risk of obesity as adults.

Jane Munro, from the Royal College of Midwives however puts a word of caution for moms-to-be,

“There are some clear risks from obesity that we already know about- hypertension, pre-eclampsia, larger babies, an increased risk of having a baby born by Caesarean section, and that the child is more likely to become obese.

“We encourage women to get to a healthy weight before conception, and eat healthily in pregnancy, but we do not encourage dieting in pregnancy, and we don’t want women getting too frightened about all this.”

While over-eating and under-eating are both bad, a balanced diet packed with nutrients not only can make the mom feel good throughout her pregnancy; it could also give a child a future safe from multitude of problems.

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About the Author

Atula is a writer, traveler and a nature-lover. She is also mom to a boy who seems to have inherited all her creative genes. When Atula is not busy making up stories with her son, she writes for numerous magazines, websites and blogs. She is also working on her site on endangered species called indiasendangered.com.

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