Pre-pregnancy weight linked with child neurodevelopment

By Julie Griffiths on 22 November 2017 Pregnancy and Weight Management

A woman’s weight before pregnancy is linked with children’s neurodevelopment, an analysis published in Obesity Reviews has found.

It revealed that, compared with children of normal weight mothers, children whose mothers were overweight or obese prior to pregnancy had 17% and 51% increased risks for compromised neurodevelopmental outcomes, respectively.

Pre-pregnancy obesity was linked with a 62% increased risk of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and a 36% increased risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It was also associated with a 58% increased risk of developmental delay and a 42% increased risk of emotional/behavioural problems.

The paper said that, given the current obesity prevalence among young adults and women of childbearing age, this association between maternal obesity during pregnancy and atypical child neurodevelopment represents a potentially high public health burden.

Senior author Dr. Bernard Fuemmeler from the Virginia Commonwealth University said: ‘Like avoiding smoking during pregnancy, this review of over 40 articles suggests that maintaining a healthy weight during pregnancy may also be important to a child’s brain development.’  

Maternal pre-pregnancy obesity and child neurodevelopmental outcomes: a meta-analysis involved a search of PubMed and PsycINFO databases for empirical studies published before April 2017 using keywords related to prenatal obesity and children’s neurodevelopment.

Of 1483 identified papers, 41 were included in the systematic review, and 32 articles representing 36 cohorts were included in the meta-analysis.