Maternal Obesity May Impair Brain Development In Premature Babies
Recent research gives obese women another reason to lose the excess weight before getting pregnant: A possible new link between maternal obesity and cognitive impairment in extremely premature babies has been found.
According to a study by researchers at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center as published in the March issue of the journal Pediatrics, babies born at less than seven months to obese mothers were at an increased risk for developmental delays compared to full term babies with mothers considered obese.
To determine a link, if any, between maternal obesity and delays in cognitive development, researchers examined 921 babies born before 28 weeks of gestation during the years of 2002 to 2004. Using the Mental Development Index (MDI) portion of the Bayley Scales of Infant Development, the researchers tested the cognitive skills of the children at age two.
The results of the study indicate that maternal obesity is associated with impaired early cognitive function.
Researchers will continue to follow the children in the study into mid-childhood to determine whether such cognitive differences continue as children born to obese mothers continue.
Obesity is thought to affect brain development in the fetus because obesity causes inflammation. Inflammation is known to damage the developing brain. Researchers are still trying to determine whether maternal obesity and its associated inflammation is the cause of the cognitive delays seen in the children born to obese mothers.
As Jennifer Helderman, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at Wake Forest Baptist concludes:
This study shows that obesity doesn’t just affect the mother’s health, but might also affect the development of the baby.
In light of the obesity epidemic in the United States, do you think that the results of this study mean that more obese women should consider losing the excess weight before trying to get pregnant?