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High pregnancy weight gain can lead to long-term obesity

Press release issued: 18 May 2011

Research by academics at the University of Bristol's Children of the 90s has found gaining more than the recommended weight during pregnancy can lead to long-term obesity.

These are the latest findings from researchers at the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC)/Children of the 90s at the University of Bristol.

Weight gain during pregnancy is necessary for the growth and development of the fetus but the study, which looked at the health of 3,877 women 16 years after they gave birth, found that those who gained more than the recommended weight during pregnancy (by 2009 Institute of Medicine guidelines) were three times as likely to be overweight or obese or to develop central adiposity (become apple shaped). Correspondingly, women whose weight gain during pregnancy was low were at lower risk of becoming overweight or obese and developing associated health problems.

Women who were underweight or within the normal range before pregnancy had average weight gains of 12.7 and 12.9 kilos respectively, well within the respective recommended ranges of 12.5-18 and 11.5-16.0 kilos, but women who were overweight gained on average 11.9 kilos, and obese women gained 10.1 kilos, both well over the recommended 7-11.5 and 5-9 kilos, respectively.

The study compared the women’s pre-pregnancy weight with body mass index (BMI), waist circumference and blood pressure 16 years’ later and adjusted for age, sex of the child, social class, parity, smoking, physical activity and diet in pregnancy, method of delivery, and whether the mother breastfed.

Dr Abigail Fraser, the report’s main author, said:"Our findings suggest that regular monitoring of weight in pregnancy may need to be reconsidered because it provides a window of opportunity to prevent health problems later in life."

The full results and accompanying editorial are published in the June 2011 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Paper: Fraser A, Tilling K, Macdonald-Wallis C, Hughes R, Sattar N, Nelson SM, Lawlor D. 'Associations of gestational weight gain with maternal body mass index. Waist circumference, and blood pressure measured 16 years after pregnancy': the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2011; 93:1285-92.

Editorial: Rasmussen KM, Abrams B. 'Gestational weight gain and later maternal health: are they related?' American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2011; 93:1186-7.

 

Further information

Based at the University of Bristol, ALSPAC/Children of the 90s is known the world over. It is a long-term health research project that enrolled more than 14,000 pregnant women in 1991 and 1992. It has been following the health and development of the mothers and their children in great detail ever since. Find out more about the project on YouTube. Film courtesy of the Wellcome Trust.
Please contact dara.ohare@bristol.ac.uk for further information.

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