Contrary to expectations, babies of overweight/obese mothers gained less weight and grew less in length than babies of normal-weight women from just after birth to three months. The overweight/obese mother babies also gained less fat mass than those born to normal-weight mothers. Fat mass in infants is widely considered to be crucial to brain growth and development. (That may explain why humans have the fattest newborns of any mammal.)
"We've found these children are not growing normally," says Katie Larson Ode, assistant clinical professor in pediatric endocrinology and diabetes at the UI. "If what we have found is true, it implies that the obesity epidemic is harming children while they are still in utero and increases the importance of addressing the risk of obesity before females enter the child-bearing years, where the negative effects can affect the next generation."
Six in ten U.S. women of childbearing age are overweight or obese, according to a 2010 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Children of overweight or obese mothers, in general, catch up to their normal-weight-mother peers at some point, according to studies; unfortunately, they also have a higher risk of continuing to rapidly gain weight in adolescence and becoming fat themselves, triggering health problems throughout their lifetimes.
Image: Overweight pregnant woman, via Shutterstock.