Mother’s Weight in Pregnancy Shapes Child’s Health

Obesity rates in women are soaring. Nearly 38 percent of the female population in the U.S. is obese. Over half of all women in their childbearing years are overweight or obese, and 8 percent of over- weight women are considered extremely obese.

Excess weight causes many internal problems. The immune system can become inflamed and compromised, hormones might not be at proper levels, and the intestines often suffer as well. A developing fetus shares his or her body with the mother, and thus the mother’s health has an impact on the development of the child.

In recent years, doctors have started to uncover the effects maternal weight on the child’s health. Children of overweight mothers are often born overly large, which may lead to future health risks.

Children often take after their parents and eat what their parents eat. Children from poorer neighborhoods may be exposed to lower-quality foods and may receive less education about the foods they eat. These children may then impart their eating habits to their children later, which explains why low-income families may be obese.

Doctors are looking into how children’s mental development is affected by obesity. They do know that the immune system is altered by weight. Often the microbiome, particularly in the digestive system, is affected by diet and by over- weight. This is worrisome, as children inherit their microbiome from their mother during development.

Children also may lose cues for the development of the immune system. High fat, high-sodium, high-calorie foods provoke and overstimulate the mother’s immune system.

Studies show that only 36 percent of women who can become pregnant receive any exercise or diet advice, and even fewer pregnant women or women who are over- weight receive such advice.

(Sources: Journal of Nutrition, 2015; Pediatric Research 2015; Science News, January 23, 2016.)

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