Being pregnant and overweight can have an effect on the appetite control and energy metabolism in an unborn child which could lead to a greater risk of heart problems later during the child’s life.
Universities of Aberdeen and Edinburgh studied the progress of over 38,000 babies born in Scotland between 1950 and 1976. The weight of the mothers was recorded during their first antenatal appointment and researchers checked the death records of their children.
Results indicated that children were 35 percent more likely to die by the age of 55 if their mothers had a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or over during their pregnancy.
The BMI is a person’s weight kilograms divided by the square of their height in meters. An example would be, if an adult weighs 70 kilograms (154 pounds) and his height is 1.75 meters (5 ft. 8 in.), he would have a BMI of 22.9.
People with a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 are classified as having normal weight, people with a BMI of 25-30 are overweight, and those with a BMI over 30 are obese.
Among the 28,540 mothers studied in Scotland, results showed that 21 percent were overweight in their pregnancies and 4 percent were obese.
Out of 37,709 children, 6,551 died from various causes. The leading cause of death was heart disease, while deaths from cancer resulted in a quarter of the men and two out of five of the women.
The increase in death rates and causes of poor health held true even when the other factors of the mother’s age, socio-economic status, and the child’s sex were studied.
The British Medical Journal reports that these results are a major public health concern in Britain. In a study partly funded by the British Heart Foundation, experts confirm that around 20 percent of women of childbearing age are obese, and over a third are overweight.
At the University of Aberdeen, Dr Sohinee Bhattacharya said, “We need to find out how to help young women and their children control their weight better so that chronic disease risk is not transmitted from generation to generation.”
Professor Rebecca Reynolds, of the Tommy’s Centre for Maternal and Fetal Research at the University of Edinburgh, said that the rising obesity rate among pregnant women and the general population is a “major public health concern.”
Doctors have long held to the belief that a mother’s health directly affects the health of their unborn child, but this study took it a step farther. According to Doireann Maddock, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, it “suggests an association between a mother’s weight in pregnancy and her child’s risk of dying prematurely in adulthood.”
Written By: Landi Bezuidenhout