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Study: Increased risk of early death for kids of obese mothers

Pregnant women who gain excess weight during pregnancy could increase their child's risk of cardiovascular death as adults, research published in the BMJ suggests. 

Using birth and death records from 1950 to 2013, researchers from the University of Edinburgh found a 35% increased risk of premature death in adults who had obese mothers. 

There was a 29% increased risk of hospital admission for a cardiovascular event in the children of obese mothers, compared to people who had mothers with a normal BMI. 

Children of overweight mothers also had a higher risk of adverse events later in life. 

Over the last twenty years, rates of maternal obesity have risen sharply, with 35% of women of reproductive age obese in Europe, and 64% obese in the USA. 

Louise Silverton, director for midwifery at the Royal College of Midwives, said: “This research shows the importance of women starting their pregnancy at a normal weight. However, not all pregnancies are planned and midwives encourage mothers to manage their weight during pregnancy.

“For those who are overweight or obese there is a need to avoid excess weight gain and for those of normal weight to maintain this status. In addition after the birth midwives work hard to support women to lose their weight - over a reasonable time period - so that they are an ideal weight for the next pregnancy.”

BMI was defined as underweight (BMI 18.5 or less), normal weight (BMI 18.5-24.9), overweight (BMI 25-29.9), and obese (BMI 30 or more).

Among the mothers, 21% were overweight and 4% were obese. Among the 37,709 offspring there were 6551 deaths from any cause.

The authors sais their findings are “a major public health concern” and that the offspring of obese mothers are a high risk group who should be assessed for cardiovascular risk, and actively encouraged to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

“As one in five women in the UK is currently obese at antenatal booking, strategies to optimise weight before pregnancy are urgently required,” they said. 

Maternal obesity during pregnancy and premature mortality from cardiovascular event in adult offspring is available to view in full for free online.