Overweight moms may have dangerously big babies

March 7, 2014 by Steven Reinberg, Healthday Reporter
Overweight moms may have dangerously big babies
Excessive weight gain leads to serious problems for mothers and infants, study suggests.

(HealthDay)—Pregnancy isn't a license to gain weight, say researchers who have found that heavier moms-to-be tend to have fatter babies at greater risk for serious health issues.

Bigger babies can pose problems during delivery, and a baby that's large for its age is at higher risk for obesity, asthma and later in life.

"Obesity, excessive weight gain during pregnancy and pregnancy-related diabetes all contribute to having big babies," said lead researcher Shin Kim, of the division of at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And all three are increasing in the United States, she added.

But carries the greatest risk among those three, according to the report, which was published in the April issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

A large baby is one that is at or above the 90th percentile for weight at its gestational age. In the United States, about 9 percent of newborns fall into that category each year.

"One of the biggest concerns is that babies born too big have a higher risk of developing diabetes and obesity in adulthood," Kim said.

A big baby also raises the odds of a cesarean birth, prolonged delivery and excessive birth trauma to the mother, said Dr. Jennifer Wu, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. Wu was not involved in the study.

"In the baby, you can have something called shoulder dystocia, where the head delivers but the shoulders are so broad that they don't come out, and the baby can wind up with permanent injuries," Wu said. "Shoulder dystocia is one of the most serious obstetric emergencies and tends to happen in big babies."

Overweight and obese women who want to get pregnant should get prenatal counseling on nutrition and weight, Kim said. A body-mass index—a measure of body fat based on height and weight—of 25 or higher is considered overweight.

"They should talk to their doctor about entering pregnancy at a healthy weight, and once they are pregnant, talk with their doctor about their weight-gain goals during their pregnancy," Kim said. Combined with monitoring during pregnancy, this can increase the odds of a healthy pregnancy and smooth delivery, Kim and Wu said.

Women need to get over the notion that when they are pregnant they are eating for two, said Dr. Jill Rabin, chief of ambulatory care obstetrics and gynecology at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y.

"We know there is a direct relationship between maternal weight gain and diabetes," Rabin said.

If the mother develops pregnancy-related diabetes, her pancreas is stressed and blood sugar increases and goes into the baby's blood, Rabin said. To compensate for the excess sugar, the baby pumps out insulin, which is a growth hormone, and the baby gets big.

"You should optimize your weight well before you get pregnant so you will have children that deliver easier and be at less risk for obesity and diabetes in their lives," Rabin said.

"If you don't do it for yourself, do it for your children," she added.

For the study, Kim's team collected data on births in Florida from 2004 to 2008. They found that 5.7 percent of women with normal weight gain and no diabetes had large babies.

Among overweight and obese women, 12.6 percent had large babies. For women who gained during pregnancy, 13.5 percent had large babies, as did 17.3 percent of women who gained excess weight and also had pregnancy-related diabetes.

Kim's group said the prevalence of large babies could be dramatically reduced among women most prone to being overweight or obese.

Among blacks, for instance, incidence of big could fall by 61 percent in the absence of obesity, during pregnancy and pregnancy-related diabetes, the researchers said.

Among all the women in the study, pregnancy-related diabetes contributed the least to having a large baby—2 percent to 8 percent, depending on race and ethnicity. Gaining excess weight during contributed the most—about 22 percent to nearly 38 percent.

Although the study showed an association between a mother's and increased health risks for her baby, it did not prove cause-and-effect.

Explore further: Attitude during pregnancy affects weight gain

More information: For more on weight during pregnancy, visit the American Pregnancy Association.

Related Stories

Attitude during pregnancy affects weight gain

February 26, 2014
Overweight or obese women with the mentality that they are "eating for two" are more likely to experience excessive weight gain while pregnant, according to researchers at Penn State College of Medicine.

Lose weight between babies, study suggests

June 3, 2013
The time between pregnancies is a golden window for obese women to lose weight, a Saint Louis University study finds.

Overweight and obese women more likely to have large babies

August 14, 2012
Among pregnant women who did not develop gestational diabetes, overweight women were 65 percent more likely, and obese women 163 percent more likely, to have overly large babies than their healthy weight counterparts. In ...

Pregnancy study leads to fewer high birth weight babies

February 14, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—The world's biggest study offering healthy eating and exercise advice to pregnant women who are overweight or obese has shown a significant reduction in the number of babies born over 4kg in weight.

Inadequate pregnancy weight gain a risk factor for infant mortality

December 19, 2013
Women who do not gain enough weight during pregnancy are at increased risk of losing their baby in its first year of life, according to a new study by researchers in the University of Maryland School of Public Health (UMD ...

Recommended for you

Population health impact of infants born small for gestational age in low- and middle-income countries

August 18, 2017
In low-and middle-income countries, it is common for babies to be born of low birth weight, due to either inadequate growth in utero (fetal growth restriction) and/or preterm birth, (birth before 37 weeks gestation). Maternal ...

Hormone from fat tissue can give protection against polycystic ovary syndrome

August 10, 2017
Obesity and reduced insulin sensitivity are common in polycystic ovary syndrome, PCOS. New research based on animal studies, and to be published in the journal PNAS, reveals that the hormone adiponectin can protect against ...

Study in mice may reveal insights into causes of miscarriages for some women

August 9, 2017
Researchers at St. Michael's Hospital have identified how natural killer cells in the mouse placenta can cause a fetus to fail to grow in the womb or cause miscarriages.

Insomnia, sleep apnea nearly double the risk of preterm delivery before 34 weeks

August 9, 2017
Pregnant women who are diagnosed with sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and insomnia appear to be at risk of delivering their babies before reaching full term, according to an analysis of California births by researchers ...

Elective freezing of IVF embryos linked to higher pregnancy rates in some cases

August 1, 2017
A delay in transferring embryos to the mother improves the success of in vitro fertilization in certain cases, according to a study by scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine, Celmatix Inc. and several other ...

Negative birth outcomes linked to air pollution exposure early in pregnancy, study finds

July 27, 2017
Exposure to air pollution early in a pregnancy could increase risk for preterm birth and low birth weight, according to a study led by researchers at NYU School of Medicine, and published on July 27 in Environmental Health ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.