Obesity's Role in Newborn Fat Mass

Obese mothers more likely to have newborns with higher weight and fat mass

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

(RxWiki News) Parents play a crucial part in keeping their children healthy. For mothers, that influence starts when their baby is in the womb.

Researchers recently found that obese mothers were more likely than normal weight mothers to have higher weight babies with more fat mass.

These researchers suggested that mothers' health and weight before pregnancy factors into their babies' health and weight as well.

"Maintain a healthy weight before and during pregnancy."

Emma Malchau Carlsen, of the Pedatric Department of Hvidovre Hospital at the University of Copenhagen, led this study.

According to Carlsen and colleagues, a mother's body mass index (BMI) and weight gain during pregnancy have been tied to higher birthweight and higher fat mass during childhood.

This study looked at whether pre-pregnancy obesity affected newborn weight and fat mass.

The researchers recruited 231 obese and 80 normal weight mothers and their newborn infants for this study.

The mothers filled out a questionnaire on their exercise habits, smoking status and previous pregnancy. They also reported their pre-pregnancy weight.

Within 48 hours after the infant was born, the researchers assessed the participants' body composition using an X-ray scanner. The scans also estimated fat mass in two regions of the abdominal area.

The researchers found that infants born to mothers who were obese were an average of 182 grams (about 0.4 pounds) heavier at birth than infants born to normal weight mothers.

Additionally, the infants born to obese mothers had an average of 3.6 ounces more fat mass compared to the other infants.

The obese mothers' newborns also had an average of half an ounce more abdominal fat tissue.

The researchers also found that the infants' total fat mass increased by about 0.39 ounces for every 2.2 pounds of weight the mothers gained during pregnancy.

Carlsen and team concluded that higher fat mass at birth was associated with an infant's mother being obese before she became pregnant.

Pre-pregnancy obesity also played a roll in abdominal fat accumulation among the infants.

Non-fat mass was unaffected by the mothers' weight.

The authors acknowledged that their study had some weaknesses. For example, the obese women were recruited from a previous study, so they may have had more awareness of healthy lifestyles during pregnancy than the average mother.

This study was published in Acta Paediatrica on June 18.

The researchers did not disclose funding or competing interests.

Review Date: 
June 17, 2014
Last Updated:
June 18, 2014