More babies face health risks due to obese parents, experts warn


A GROWING number of babies worldwide are at risk of brain damage or having a stroke, heart attack or asthma in adulthood because their mother was obese, health experts have warned.
Leading doctors said dangerously overweight mothers were passing on obesity to their children as the result of “a vicious cycle” in which excess weight can seriously affect the health of parents and their offspring.
Four studies published in the Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology make clear that the risks of maternal obesity include stillbirth, dangerously high blood pressure in pregnant women, diabetes in the mother or child, and complications during childbirth.
The scale of obesity in women of childbearing age and the consequent dangers to health were so great that urgent action was needed to ensure women were a normal weight before they conceived, the authors say.
Mothers being very heavily overweight could lead to their children having autism or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or developing cancer in later life, the researchers say.
British women have the highest rates of obesity in Europe. One in five women in the UK who became pregnant were already obese, while in England, 26% of 35- to 44-year-old women were obese in 2013, as were 18% of those aged 24-35.
Rates are even higher elsewhere. In the United States, 32% of women of peak childbearing age, between 20 and 39, were obese in 2011-12, and 60% of American women were either overweight or obese when they conceived, according to one study.
Prof Lesley Regan, the president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, which represents 14,000 doctors working in Britain and worldwide who specialise in childbirth and women’s health, said: “Obesity has reached pandemic proportions globally and its origins start in the womb. In the UK, the prevalence of obesity is over 25% in both women and men. Around one in five pregnant women are obese, increasing their risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death as well as gestational diabetes, blood clots, pre-eclampsia, more complicated labours and severe bleeding after the birth.”
The international team of experts behind the studies said they feared that the problem, which is worst in developed countries, would escalate further because one in five (21%) women in the world are projected to be dangerously overweight by 2025.