Weight gain during pregnancy may explain excess fat in daughters

AUSTIN, Texas — Girls born to mothers who quickly gained weight during the first and last month of pregnancy were more likely to have weight problems as teenagers, finds a new study.

All pregnancies cause weight gain. Most women experience 22 to 27.5 pounds during pregnancy, with most weight gain after 20 weeks. But researchers suggest putting on too much at the wrong time could increase their child’s waistline.

The team tracked the body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, and body fat of 300 pregnant women and their children. The researchers tracked the children from 5 to 14 years old. Women followed one of four weight gain patterns during their pregnancy.

Girls born to mothers who quickly gained at the beginning and end of their pregnancy — during the first and third trimester — had the biggest BMI, waist circumference, and fat. In contrast, daughters born to women who lost weight at the start of their pregnancy before gradually gaining weight throughout the pregnancy had the smallest of all three measurements.

Weight gain during pregnancy did not affect the weight of teenage boys

Interestingly, there was no link between a mother’s weight during pregnancy and weight in boys. The research team suggests this may come down to gender differences in growth and development during adolescence.

“This study shows us that there may be sex differences in child body composition based on what they are exposed to in utero. But, really, we believe there is only a small portion of pregnancy weight gain that can be consciously changed – specifically among fat tissue, since much of the weight change is necessary to support the pregnancy,” says Elizabeth M. Widen, assistant professor of nutritional sciences at UT Austin and lead author of the study in a press release.

Doctors link obesity to poor mental health and many health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Dr. Widen believes these findings could provide a greater understanding of the risk factors for childhood obesity. The results could also help create individualized weight gain guidelines during pregnancy.

The findings are published in the journal Obesity.

South West News Service writer Tom Campbell contributed to this report.