- September 12, 2016
- Posted by: emobile
- Category: Researcher's Corner
Emobileclinic Researchers Corner
There is a growing concern on the effects of overweight on the general health of an individual. More worrisome concern arose following findings of researchers who found that some women who are overweight or obese prior to being pregnant face higher risk of having a baby with cerebral palsy. This finding was published in the recent edition of the Journal of Pediatrics.
This submission was made following the analyses of data from two Nordic countries, where the team found that the risk of cerebral palsy was high in infants whose mothers’ pre-pregnancy weight was in the upper-normal range. However, it is important to add that the experts stressed that the overall risks of having a baby with cerebral palsy (CP) remain very small, even among women carrying excess weight. In his word, Ingeborg Forthun, said that “even though an increased risk for overweight women of 60 percent seems high, the risk of having a baby with CP is still very low”.
It must also be emphasized that this study focused on proving the association between mothers’ pre-pregnancy weight and CP, not a cause-and-effect relationship.
According to the United States Centers for Diseases Control, cerebral palsy affects 1 in 323 infants. Cerebral palsy is a form of disorders affecting movement, balance and posture caused by damage to the brain or abnormal brain development, affecting muscle control and sometimes creating vision and hearing problems, learning disabilities or seizures.
The team analyzed data totaling 189,000 children from national data in Norway and Denmark. They grouped women’s pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI) five, namely: underweight, lower-normal weight, upper-normal weight, overweight and obese.
Body mass index is a rough estimate of a person’s body fat based on height and weight measurements. A normal BMI is 18.5 to 24.9, an overweight BMI is 25 to 29.9, and obese is a BMI of 30 or over. For someone who’s 5 feet, 9 inches tall a weight of 125 to 168 pounds is considered normal weight, 169 to 202 pounds is overweight, and 203 pounds and more is obese (Center for Diseases Control).
About 390 cases of cerebral palsy were documented in the two countries. The researchers discovered that mothers in the upper-normal weight group had a 40 percent greater risk of having a baby with the disorder. Results remained the same when adjusted for occupation, age and smoking status.
The team agreed that several factors like greater incidence of pregnancy-related diabetes and birth complications in women with higher BMIs which are related to being overweight may contribute to the higher risks of cerebral palsy.
Dr. Kelly Ruhstaller, a maternal-fetal medicine physician at the Delaware Center for Maternal and Fetal Medicine at Christiana Care Health System in Wilmington notes that: “women are starting pregnancy at higher BMIs than even 20 years ago”.
She further revealed that related research has uncovered that the majority of women add more weight than recommended by the Institute of Medicine while pregnant, which ranges from 11 to 40 pounds depending on pre-pregnancy weight.
Ruhstaller notes that the study “adds to the support for the argument that women contemplating pregnancy should really do everything they can to get themselves to a healthy weight, which can be a challenge. But, starting pregnancy at a healthy weight is associated with much better outcomes for baby and mother as well.”
The above statement was complimented by Forthun when he opined that “in general, women who plan to get pregnant should try to reach a healthy weight and focus on eating healthy during pregnancy”.