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Obese mothers raise heart risk

Wednesday August 14th, 2013

Children of obese mothers have a raised risk of early death, particularly from heart disease, reseachers report today.

The findings led campaigners to call for more effort to help women planning pregnancy to manage their weight.

Professor Rebecca Reynolds of Edinburgh University, UK, and colleagues explain that the links between less than ideal conditions in the womb and later disease have been widely studied. Some animal studies indicated that maternal obesity may have detrimental effects for their offspring, including obesity.

So the team investigated the possible impact on heart health. They used Scottish birth records on 37,709 people born since 1950 and linked these to records of cardiovascular events up to 2012, in offspring aged 34 to 61 years.

Risk of death from all causes was a third higher for those who had an obese mother (body mass index of more than 30 in early pregnancy), once many factors such as birth weight and sex were taken into account.

These children also had a raised risk of hospital admission for problems linked to heart disease - and poor outcomes after the event.

In today's (14 August) British Medical journal, the authors write: "As one in five women in the UK is obese at antenatal booking, strategies to optimise weight before pregnancy are urgently required."

Commenting on the study, Dr Pam Factor-Litvak of Columbia University, New York, USA, suggests that interventions to cut parental obesity "should begin before pregnancy".

Doireann Maddock of the British Heart Foundation said: "Further research is needed to understand this association but this study emphasises the need for everyone, but in particular pregnant women, to try to eat healthily and be active."

Louise Silverton of the Royal College of Midwives added: "Midwives do communicate to women the long term health risks of obesity for mother and baby."

Reynolds, R. et al. Maternal obesity and offspring premature mortality: a follow-up of 1,323,275 person-years. BMJ 14 August 2013 doi: 10.1136/bmj.f4539 [abstract]

Tags: Child Health | Childbirth and Pregnancy | Diet & Food | Heart Health | Nursing & Midwifery | UK News | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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