A new study points out another reason that obesity and pregnancy can be a bad combination not only for the mother but for her future child as well.
Researchers found that six-year-olds whose mothers were severely obese before pregnancy are more likely to have developmental or emotional problems than kids of healthy-weight mothers.
The lead author of the study, Heejoo Jo of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and her team reviewed data on 1,311 mother-child pairs collected between 2005 and 2012, including the mothers’ body mass index (BMI, a height-to-weight ratio) before pregnancy and their reports of the children’s psychosocial difficulties at age six.
The researchers also incorporated the children’s developmental diagnoses and receipt of special needs services.
Kids of moms who were severely obese, with a BMI greater than 35, were twice as likely to have emotional symptoms, problems with peers and total psychosocial difficulties compared to kids of moms who had a healthy BMI, between 18.5 and 25.
Their children were three times as likely to have a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder and more than four time as likely to have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), as reported in the journal Pediatrics.
Previous studies have shown a connection with autism and maternal diabetes and obesity.
Researchers took into account pregnancy weight gain, gestational diabetes, breastfeeding duration, postpartum depression and infant birth weight. None of these explained the apparent association.
“We already do know that obesity is related to health problems during pregnancy and throughout the lifetime,” Jo said. “I think this adds to that by suggesting that not only does severe obesity affect a woman’s health but the health of her future children.”
This study could not analyze the mechanism linking severe obesity and later risk for developmental problems, Jo noted.
“One theory that we could not look at and needs further research was some small studies have linked maternal obesity to increased inflammation, which might affect fetal brain development,” she told Reuters Health by phone.
While it sounds cliché because we’ve heard it so much; obesity in America has reached epidemic status. Almost 30 percent of Americans are obese and the prevalence of maternal obesity has risen rapidly in the last two decades.
In the USA, approximately 64% of women of reproductive age are overweight and 35% obese.
Women’s health specialists recommend that obese women considering pregnancy lose weight before they conceive to help reduce health risks for themselves as well as their child.
The Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children be screened for developmental delay or disability at nine, 18 and 24 or 30 months of age.
Health experts strongly suggest that women who were obese or severely obese when they became pregnant make sure that their children receive these developmental screenings.
Sources: Kathryn Doyle, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/04/28/us-obese-pregnancy-adhd-kids-idUSKBN0NJ2FC20150428
James R. O'Reilly, Rebecca M. Reynolds, http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/776504