Can Non-Ideal Weight Gain in Pregnancy Affect Child’s Metabolism?

April 21, 2014

New research shows that too much or too little maternal weight gain in pregnancy is associated with the child’s risk of being overweight or obese in early childhood.

Women who gain too little weight during pregnancy are not the typical picture of gestational weight gain. However, a new study has shown that gaining less than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy is associated with a risk of the child later being overweight or obese similar to that of the risk of offspring being overweight or obese in women who gain too much weight. 

Pertinent Points

- Women who gain too much or too little weight during pregnancy have children who are at increased risk for being overweight or obese between the ages of 2 and 5.

- The finding suggests that gestational weight gain has an effect that may be independent of genetic predictors
for obesity.

Researchers with Kaiser Permanente reported in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology that of the women who gained more weight than recommended, 20.4% of their children were overweight or obese at 2 to 5 years of age. Among the women who gained less than the recommended weight, 19.5% of their children were overweight or obese.

When a pregnant women’s weight gain was within the recommendations, 14.5% of the children were overweight or obese.

The associations between gaining less than or more than the 2009 Institute of Medicine recommendations for weight gain in pregnancy and childhood obesity were stronger among women with a normal pre-pregnancy BMI, with an odds ratio of 1.63 (95% CI, 1.03–2.57) for women who gained less than recommended and an odds ratio of 1.79 (95% CI, 1.32–2.43) for those who exceeded the weight gain parameters.

That finding led researchers to conclude that gestational weight gain has an effect that may be independent of genetic predictors of obesity.

The study involved 4,145 women who completed a health survey between 2007 and 2009 and later delivered a singleton at Kaiser Permanente Northern California. Researchers later reviewed the medical records of the children when they were between ages 2 and 5 years.

"Gaining either too little or too much weight in pregnancy may permanently affect mechanisms that manage energy balance and metabolism in the offspring, such as appetite control and energy expenditure," said the study's lead author Sneha Sridhar, MPH, Kaiser Permanente Division of Research, in a news release. "This could potentially have long-term effects on the child's subsequent growth and weight."