Gaining excess or too little weight during pregnancy tied to child obesity risk

According to researchers at Kaiser Permanente, gaining either excess weight or too little weight during pregnancy appears to elevate the risk of having an obese or overweight child. This study examined recommendations of the Institute of Medicine regarding pregnancy weight gain in relation to childhood obesity.

“Gaining either too little or too much weight in pregnancy may permanently affect mechanisms that manage energy balance and metabolism in the offspring, such as appetite control and energy expenditure,” study’s lead author Sneha Sridhar, MPH, Kaiser Permanente Division of Research, said in a statement. “This could potentially have long-term effects on the child’s subsequent growth and weight.”

For this study, the researchers looked at the health records of over 4,145 racially diverse women who completed the health survey taken from 2007-2009 and had a baby.  Apart from this, the researchers even looked at the medical records of children of ages 2 to 5 years.

The weight recommendations and body mass index (BMI) guidelines are from the Institute of Medicine. Among obese women, with BMI greater to or equal to 30, the recommended weight gain during pregnancy is 11-20 pounds. For overweight women with BMI between 25-29 the recommended weight gain is 15-25 pounds and for women with normal weight with BMI between 18.5-25 the recommended weight gain is 25-35 pounds and for the underweight women with BMI less than 18.5 the weight gain recommended is 28-40 pounds.

They noticed that among all the women who put on extra pounds crossing the recommended weight gain during pregnancy; over 20.4 percent of the children were overweight or obese when compared to 19.5 percent of the women who gained less weight than the recommended weight.  Nearly, 14.5 percent of the women had gained weight within the given guidelines.

Women having normal BMI measurement before pregnancy who gained less weight than what was recommended were nearly 63 percent more likely to have an obese or overweight child. The women with normal BMI before pregnancy and with weight above the recommended value were nearly 80 percent more likely to have an overweight or obese child.

“The stronger association we found among normal weight women who gained too much or too little weight during pregnancy suggests that perhaps weight gain in pregnancy may have an impact on the child that is independent of genetic factors,” said senior investigator Monique M. Hedderson, Ph.D., Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, Calif.

Overweight and obesity in these children was defined as having a BMI at ages 2 to 5 years of more than or equal to 85th percentile of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention child growth standard.

The study was documented in the journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

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