Lifestyle

Early pregnancy weight gain may increase risk of childhood obesity

A study found that the amount of weight a mother gains during early pregnancy may affect the birth weight of the child.
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A study found that the amount of weight a mother gains during early pregnancy may affect the birth weight of the child.

A study published Monday in the scientific journal Obesity found that the amount of weight a mother gains during early pregnancy may affect the birth weight of the child.

The study was conducted by a team of nine researchers from Tianjin Women’s and Children’s Health Center in Tianjin, China, and Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, LA. It looked at 16,218 mothers from Tianjin and found that the relationship between gestational weight gain (GWG) and infant size at birth was strongest during the first two trimesters.

Mothers with excessive GWG tended to give birth to overweight babies, while the babies birthed by those with inadequate GWG were often underweight, according to the study. Although a connection between GWG and infant birth weight had already been found prior to the study published in Obesity, the nature of this connection had been unclear.

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While the researchers cited several studies that had found a connection between excessive GWG and childhood obesity, they acknowledged that more research needs to be done in this area.

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The National Academy of Medicine, a nonprofit that advises the public on medicine and health-related issues, published a revision of its GWG guidelines in 2009, which gave specific weight gain recommendations based on women’s pre-pregnancy weight status.

According to those recommendations, underweight women should gain 28-40 lbs. during pregnancy, women of normal weight should gain 25-35 lbs., overweight women should gain 15-25 lbs., and obese women should gain 11-20 lbs. The main difference between these guidelines and the original 1990 version is that the 1990 guidelines merely recommended that obese women gain “at least 15” lbs.

The study concluded that, since high infant birth weight can be a precursor to childhood obesity, maintaining healthy levels of weight gain early in pregnancy may prove to be an effective method of preventing childhood obesity.

Terence Cawley can be reached at terence.cawley@globe.com