Weight gain between pregnancies harmful to babies

By Drum Digital
22 June 2016

Mothers who gain weight between pregnancies raise the risk of their second child having a life-threatening condition, new research has found.

Data from the Swedish Medical Birth Register looked at 532,858 second born infants born to women having their first and second babies between 1992 and 2012. Those mums whose BMI went up by at least four units between carrying each child had a higher risk of complications than those ladies whose weight remained steady.

Babies whose mothers were heavier were 78 per cent more likely to suffer meconium aspiration, a condition in which a sticky substance enters a newborn's lungs. On top of this, the chances of the child having a seizure and low Apgar score, a quick means to determine a newborn's health, rose by 42 and 33 per cent respectively. Overall the number of tots with a low Apgar score was 2,824, while neonatal seizures and meconium aspiration were 658 and 372 respectively.

When a mother is overweight while expecting, her baby may be starved of oxygen - known as birth asphyxia - which can lead to the problems.

"Given the high prevalence of maternal overweight and the possible long term consequences of birth asphyxia, our results have substantial public health relevance, as even modest weight increases in normal weight women may impact offspring outcomes on a population level," Paediatrician Dr Martina Persson of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm said, noting that the population of overweight and obese people has reached "epidemic proportions".

"Encouraging women to normalise BMI before pregnancy and to avoid weight gain between pregnancies is likely to be an important measure to improve infant health."

These conclusions come after medical university Karolinska Institute conducted similar research in 2015 looking into weight gain between expecting children. Those whose BMI went up by at least four units were 55 per cent more likely to have stillborns and babies who were 29 per cent more likely to die within a year than those women of normal build.

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