Weight gain in pregnancy linked to overweight in kids

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2007-04-03 11:55

Pregnancy Weight Gain and Child Health

Pregnant women who gain excessive or even appropriate weight, according to current guidelines, are four times more likely than women who gain inadequate weight to have a baby who becomes overweight in early childhood. These findings are from a new study at the Department of Ambulatory Care and Prevention of Harvard Medical School (HMS) and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, and are published in the April issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

"Maternal weight gain during pregnancy is an important determinant of birth outcomes," says lead author Emily Oken, instructor in the Department of Ambulatory Care and Prevention. "These findings suggest that pregnancy weight gain can influence child health even after birth and may cause the obstetric community to rethink current guidelines."

Oken and colleagues examined data from 1,044 mother-child pairs in Project Viva, a prospective study of pregnant women and their children based at the Department of Ambulatory Care and Prevention's Obesity Prevention Program. The authors studied whether pregnancy weight gain within or above the recommended range increased the risk of a child being overweight at age 3 years.

In 1990, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) published guidelines for gestational weight gain ("Nutrition During Pregnancy") that were motivated by evidence that low weight gain in pregnant women may cause low birth weight. These guidelines call for smaller gains in mothers with a higher body mass index (BMI) and generally permit greater gains than previous recommendations.

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