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Mom’s pre-pregnancy obesity linked to ADHD, other problems in children

Mothers' prepregnancy obesity linked to ADHD in children

Children of women who were very obese before getting pregnant are at increased risk of emotional and behavioral problems, a new study suggests.


Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that when mothers were severely obese before pregnancy, their children were more likely to have issues such as developmental delays and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) at the age of 6.

Study author Laura Schieve, an epidemiologist at the CDC cautioned that the findings do not prove that moms’ obesity is to blame, but that there was a “strong and consistent association" between mothers' pre-pregnancy weight and kids' development, even after adjusting for other factors such as family income and education.

Researchers analyzed data from the Infant Feeding Practices Study II, which was conducted from 2005 to 2007. In 2012, mothers were recontacted for information on their children’s health and development. The researchers examined associations between maternal prepregnancy body mass index (BMI) and child psychosocial development in 1,311 mother-child pairs.

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The study found that the children of mothers who had a BMI greater than 35 had increased odds of emotional symptoms, peer problems, total psychosocial difficulties, ADHD, autism or other developmental delays, and receipt of speech language therapy, psychological services and special needs services than children of normal weight mothers.

Even after taking into consideration factors that could explain the link, such as smoking, pregnancy-related diabetes, whether the mother breastfed or suffered postpartum depression, the researchers found that there was a “clear association between maternal obesity and children’s developmental outcomes.”

Schieve said if mothers’ obesity before pregnancy does affect their children’s later development it is unclear how, but it can create widespread inflammation in the body that could theoretically affect fetal brain development.

The study was published in the journal Pediatrics.

A study published earlier this year in the journal Maternal & Child Nutrition found that children whose mothers were overweight or obese before pregnancy are at increased risk of being obese themselves. Being born to a mother who was overweight or obese before pregnancy increased the child’s risk of obesity by 300 percent.