Obesity in Mothers

by Ren Chats

Obesity in Mother Hampers Baby's Neurodevelopment

Obesity in Mother Hampers Baby's Neurodevelopment

Mothers’ pre pregnancy weight could be an important criteria to determine their children’s learning abilities during middle childhood years.

With worldwide epidemic of obesity among children, teenagers and youths, one in 5 women in their childbearing age are overweight.

The incidence is significantly higher in more developed countries. Statistics from the US shows that 60 percent of women in their childbearing age are overweight, and 1 in every 3 are obese.

Obesity in mothers not only endangers their health, but also leads to pregnancy related complications; gestational diabetes, preeclampsia – high blood pressure and albuminuria (excretion of protein in urine), miscarriage or premature birth and cesarean delivery. It also leads to several developmental issues in the offspring.

Am I trying to say that maternal obesity could be the cause of learning difficulties in their children?

No....., But .. Yes!!!
Though obesity is not directly responsible for learning difficulties in the offspring, prepregnancy overweight causes maternal metabolic derangement, which risks the optimal neurodevelopment of the baby. The incidence of metabolic syndrome is 1 in 6; and 1 in 10 of diabetes - gestational and type2 put together.

Diabetes in mother is well known to be related with sub optimal fetal growth, compromised brain development, fetal macrosomia, increased risk of congenital anomalies and more frequent admission in newborns care unit. Infants of diabetic mothers are at significantly higher risk for developmental delays.

Over last few years several studies have linked obesity in mothers to impairment in specific developmental domains of their children; inadequate language development, reading difficulties, attention deficit hyperactive disorder, lower mathematical scores and poor problem solving capabilities.
The results obtained are debatable, but all of them point towards Autism Spectrum Disorders and compromised cognitive development in offspring of mothers with metabolic disorder attributed to overweight, obesity or diabetes.

Inadequate nutrition in mother’s diet negatively affects her baby’s health in the womb and after birth. Paucity of appropriate nutrition could also be a cause of concern in mothers whose prepregnancy BMI was high (≥30).

A recent study (Pediatrics 2013;131:56–63) shows that the children of the mothers with high preprgnancy BMI and of mothers who gain too much weight during pregnancy have babies of higher birth weight. Their children usually continue to be overweight at 5 - 7 years of age. They lag behind in their cognitive performance, even when adjusted for several social and individual differences. The cognitive development delay increases as the age advances. Their IQ evaluation at 8 years of age was also found to be lower as compared to children of normal mothers (BMI between 18.5 and 24.9).


1. Maternal prepregnancy BMI and child cognition: A longitudinal cohort study; Emre Basatemur, Julian Gardiner, Carrie Williams, Edward Melhuish, Jacqueline Barnes and Alastair Sutcliffe. Pediatrics 2013;131:56–63; doi:10.1542/peds.2012-0788

2. Tanda R, Salsberry PJ, Reagan PB, Fang MZ. The impact of prepregnancy obesity on children’s cognitive test scores: Matern Child Health J. 2013 February; 17(2): 222–229. doi: 10.1007/s10995-012-0964-4

3. Maternal metabolic conditions and risk for autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders: Paula Krakowiak, Cheryl K. Walker, Andrew A. Bremer, Alice S. Baker, Sally Ozonoff, Robin L. Hansen and Irva Hertz-Picciotto, Pediatrics: Volume 129, Number 5, May 2012; doi:10.1542/peds.2011-2583

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