Mother's Weight Tied to Future Child's Health

Heart disease and stroke risk was raised in children of mothers who were overweight before pregnancy

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Could a mother's weight before pregnancy affect her future child's health? A new study suggests so.

Past research found that if a pregnant woman was obese, her children had raised heart health risks. But whether this is true of a mother who is overweight has not been studied in depth.

The authors of a new study found that children born to overweight women had an increased risk of heart disease as adults.

More than half of pregnant women in the US are overweight or obese, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

“Obesity is easily the single most significant health risk factor in this country," said Andre F. Hall, MD, an OB-GYN at Birth and Women's Care in Fayetteville, NC, in an interview with dailyRx News. "While the reasons are [many], the bottom line is that we eat too much of the wrong foods and do not get enough exercise. This leads to a host of medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, elevated cholesterol, joint disease, etc.”

Michael Mendelson, MD, of Boston Children's Hospital, and colleagues conducted the study.

The research team looked at data collected from 1971 to 2012 on 879 mothers and their children. The average age of the study participants was 32 when the study began.

The study authors analyzed the risk of cardiovascular problems — such as heart attack, stroke or death — in adults born to women who were overweight before they got pregnant.

About 10 percent of the mothers had a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or more and were considered overweight. A BMI of 30 or more is generally considered obese. BMI is a height- and weight-based measure of body fat.

Over the 41 years of the study, the researchers found that, when mothers were overweight or obese, their adult children had a 90 percent higher chance of death from heart disease or stroke than adults whose mothers were not overweight or obese.

Dr. Mendelson and colleagues said that the increased risk may be due to the children's obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol.

“During pregnancy, an already stressed body is put at increased risk further by being overweight," Dr. Hall said. "These risks often convey to children both as a direct result of the obesity of the mom as well as by the exposure to poor health habits as the child is growing up thereby perpetuating these health risks from generation to generation."

The study was presented Nov. 18 at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2014 in Chicago. Research presented at conferences may not have been peer-reviewed.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the National Institutes of Health funded the study. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
November 16, 2014
Last Updated:
November 19, 2014