Researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, and the University of Texas (UT) at Austin found that a mother’s obesity in pregnancy may affect her child’s development for years down the road.
The study analyzed 368 mothers and their children during pregnancy, and when the children were ages 3 and 7 years. Children at age 3 years were measured for motor skills, and researchers found that maternal obesity during pregnancy was strongly associated with lower motor skills in boys. At age 7 years, the researchers found that the boys whose mothers were overweight or obese during pregnancy had scores of 5 or more points lower on a full-scale IQ test compared to boys whose mothers had been at a normal weight.
The research team also examined the nurturing environment in a child’s home, analyzing how parents interacted with their children and if the child was provided with books and toys.
Previous research of the topic has found links between a mother’s diet and cognitive development, such as higher IQ in kids whose mothers have more of certain fatty acids found in fish. Dietary and behavioral differences may be driving factors, although it is not clear why obesity in pregnancy would affect a child later in life.
The researchers at Columbia and UT Austin advised women who are obese or overweight when they become pregnant to eat a well-balanced diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables, take a prenatal vitamin, stay active, and get enough fatty acids. Seeing a doctor regularly and giving children a proper, nurturing environment is also recommended.
The new study, whose findings are published inBMC Pediatrics, found mothers’ obesity during pregnancy had no effect on girls.
Moms’ obesity in pregnancy is linked to lag in son’s development and IQ. Columbia Mailman School of Public Health. https://www.mailman.columbia.edu/public-health-now/news/moms%E2%80%99-obesity-pregnancy-linked-lag-sons%E2%80%99-development-and-iq. Published December 23, 2019. Accessed January 2, 2020.