Study: Childhood Obesity Linked to Mom’s Pregnancy Weight

A pregnant woman holds her belly

A new study has shown a link between pregnancy weight gain and childhood obesity. Gaining too much (or too little) weight during your pregnancy can increase your child’s risk of becoming obese by permanently affecting the mechanisms that manage energy balance and metabolism in your child.

To conduct their study, the Kaiser Permenente research team looked at the medical records of children born to 4,100 women in California. They discovered that more than 20 percent of children born to mothers who gained too much weight during their pregnancies were overweight or obese by ages 2 to 5; comparatively, the rate of obesity in children whose mothers gained the recommended amount of weight was 14.5 percent. 

Overall, children had an 80 percent risk of becoming obese if their mothers gained too much weight during pregnancy; their risk for obesity was also surprisingly high (63 percent) if their mothers didn’t put on enough weight. The fact that this trend was found even among some normal weight women was also a surprise, suggesting that "perhaps weight gain in pregnancy has an impact on the child that is independent of any genetic factors," according to study co-author Monique Hedderson.

The research was published in the April 14 issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and concludes that there is an association between pregnancy weight gain and increased risk of childhood obesity, but could not prove cause and effect.

Current Institute of Medicine guidelines suggest weight gain for pregnant women should be approximately 11 to 20 pounds for obese women, 15-25 pounds for overweight women, 25 to 35 pounds for normal weight women, and 28 to 40 pounds for underweight women.

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