How Childhood Obesity Starts Before Birth

A New Study Finds Pregnancy Weight Gain Increases Risk for a Child Becoming Obese

March 17, 2015—While diet and exercise are the usual suspects when it comes to the high numbers of obese children, new research is uncovering other factors, from an overabundance of fast food to a lack of green space.

A study by Andrew Rundle, DrPH, associate professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School, shows risk for childhood obesity can actually begin before birth. In a paper published in the journal Maternal & Child Nutrition, Dr. Rundle found that children born to women who gained excessive weight during pregnancy were three times more likely to be obese than children whose mothers gained a healthy amount of weight. He also found that women who had struggled with obesity prior to pregnancy were much more likely to have children who struggled with obesity.

As many as half of women gain weight above the amounts recommended by the Institutes of Medicine, suggesting, says Dr. Rundle, that too few are aware of the guidelines. Along with childhood obesity, putting on too much weight during pregnancy increases risk for gestational diabetes and complications during delivery.

“It’s important for women to talk to their doctors about how much weight they should gain during pregnancy,” Dr. Rundle explains in a video. “Women should include healthy diet and exercise as part of their nine-month plan and understand that having a healthy pregnancy is going to give their child a healthy start in life.”

Rundle will discuss pregnancy weight gain on April 16, as part of a month-long series of events on childhood obesity at the Mailman School .

Watch the video