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Weight gain in pregnancy leads to high birth weight babies

Friday August 6th, 2010

Mothers-to-be who gain too much weight in pregnancy are likely to give birth to heavy babies who are themselves at risk of obesity in later life, researchers warned yesterday.

The findings, published Online First in The Lancet, echo recent guidance in the UK that pregnant women should no longer "eat for two".

Researchers from the Children’s Hospital Boston, USA, analysed 513,501 women and their 1,164,750 babies, using birth records to examine all known singleton births in Michigan and New Jersey from 1989 to 2003.

They identified women who had undergone two or more live births, which allowed them to compare pregnancies in the same mother, but excluded babies born before 37 weeks or after 41 weeks’ gestation, infants who had very low or very high birth weight and mothers who had diabetes.

Compared to those who gained between 18 and 22 pounds (one stone 4lbs and one stone 5lbs), pregnant women who put on between 44 and 49 pounds (just over three stones and three stones 5lbs) and were 1.7 times more likely to have a high-birth-weight baby. Women who gained more than 53 pounds (three and a half stones) were 2.3 times more likely to do so.

The pattern was the same after excluding women who had ever smoked, those who delivered by caesarean section and those who had any pregnancy of less than 39 weeks or more than 40 weeks.

On average, the women gained an average of 30 pounds (just over two stones) during their pregnancies, but 12 per cent of pregnancies involved weight gains of more than 44 pounds (more than three stones). High-birth-weight babies (8.8 lbs or more) accounted for 12 per cent of all births.

Researcher Dr David Ludwig, director of the Optimal Weight for Life (OWL) at Children's Hospital Boston, said: "It's appropriate for a baby to be born with some fat, but a baby born too fat indicates that the foetus developed in an abnormal environment during the most critical nine months of life.

"When comparing between siblings to control for genetic influences, we found that increasing amounts of maternal weight gain led to the birth of progressively heavier infants.”

Mervi Jokinen, of the UK Royal College of Midwives, said the findings were not "ground-breaking news".

She added: "Still, this is a comprehensive study of more than half a million women and more than one million children and highlights the potential benefits to pregnant women of early access to a midwife and counselling about healthy eating and lifestyles."

The Lancet on-line August 4 2010

Tags: Child Health | Childbirth and Pregnancy | Diet & Food | Fitness | North America | UK News | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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