Children of mothers who gain more than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy are more likely to be overweight at age seven, say researchers from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, in a study published today in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Children of mothers who are obese prior to pregnancy and gain excessive weight are at the greatest risk for obesity in their later childhood.
“Adherence to pregnancy weight gain recommendations may be a new and effective way to prevent childhood obesity, since currently almost half of U.S. women exceed these recommendations," says study leader Dr. Brian Wrotniak of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania.
The researchers reviewed data from 10,226 participants. This study looked at the children born at full-term gestation, and researchers evaluated socioeconomic and growth data during gestation, at birth and at age 7. Maternal data was collected at enrollment by using a questionnaire that included maternal pre-pregnancy weight, age and race. It appears that the first determinants of childhood obesity may begin when the baby is in the womb.
According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), which makes recommendations for weight gain during pregnancy, the amount of weight women should gain during pregnancy depends on the mother’s weight status before pregnancy. Women at a healthy pre-pregnancy weight are encouraged to gain 25 to 35 pounds, while women who are overweight should stay between 15 to 25 pounds. Women who are underweight should gain more weight during pregnancy—between 28 and 40 pounds.
The authors say that encouraging pregnant women to adopt healthy eating practices and engage in aerobic physical activity could help them achieve appropriate weight gain and also help prevent obesity in their children.
Children whose mothers exceeded the recommended weight gain were 48 percent more likely to be overweight than children whose mothers stayed within the recommended weight gain.