Reuters Health) - (Maternal weight gain after giving birth, not just during pregnancy, increases a child’s risk of being overweight, according to a new study.
“We already know that women who gain a lot of weight during pregnancy are more likely to have overweight children, but it is surprising that women who gain relatively much weight after pregnancy are more likely to have overweight children as well,” said lead author Lenie van Rossem of University Medical Center Utrecht in The Netherlands.
Excess weight gain during pregnancy is also linked with a higher risk of Cesarean sections, spontaneous early delivery and babies who are larger than is healthy at birth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Ideal weight gain during pregnancy varies by individual, but most women at a healthy weight before pregnancy should gain between 25 and 35 pounds while pregnant, based on Institute of Medicine guidelines.
In a group of 3,367 children born in or after 1996 in The Netherlands, those whose mothers gained too much weight in pregnancy were more likely to be overweight themselves, researchers found.
In addition, those whose mothers gained at least one kilogram (about two pounds) per year after giving birth also tended to be heavier for their heights than other children, the researchers found.
At age 14, children of mothers with high weight gain both during pregnancy and afterward had the highest risk of being overweight, the researchers reported in Pediatrics.
The mothers reported their own weight gain and their child’s height and weight via questionnaires starting during pregnancy and continuing until the child was 14.
Mothers gained an average of 13.7 kilograms, or about 30 pounds, during pregnancy, and almost a third experienced “excessive” weight gain.
There are three plausible explanations for the link between pregnancy weight gain and childhood weight: genes, lifestyle and “intra-uterine programming,” van Rossem told Reuters Health by email.
“As the prevalence of childhood overweight increased very fast over the last decades, genetics can hardly be the only explanation,” she said.
“If (the mother) eats a lot of sugar for example, this passes through the placenta and the fetus’ metabolism responds to this diet,” she said. “After birth, the child is programmed with a certain metabolism.”
It is still not clear whether post delivery weight gain has an independent effect on child’s weight or if weight gain during pregnancy drives most of the child’s risk, and also happens to coincide with post pregnancy weight gain, according to Jihong Liu of the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.
“Weight management is very important for women before, during and after pregnancy,” Liu told Reuters Health by email. “It has the potential to break the vicious cycle of weight-related health issues in women and their offspring.”
Liu was not involved in the new study.
Pregnant women don’t need to “eat for two,” but they also do not need to stick to a restrictive diet, van Rossem said.
“Physical activity is - for most pregnant women - feasible until delivery,” she said. “You don’t have to run marathons, but a short walk or swimming are activities that certainly contribute.”
SOURCE: bit.ly/1NkgA5J Pediatrics, online October 19, 2015.