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Extra Pregnancy Pounds Lead to Heart Risk for Kids

Put down that pickle-covered pizza, prego!

A new study by Abigail Fraser of the University of Bristol says too much pregnancy weight gain raises the odds that “your child will show signs of heart disease by age 9.”

According to the study, published in the June 1 issue of Circulation, “Children’s heart risk increased with any weight gain during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, and with any weight gain over 1.1 pounds per week during weeks 14 to 36 of pregnancy.”  Any weight gain… into the second trimester?!  Oh man, I can remember housing a salad, roll, steak, potatoes and veggies at TGI Friday’s during week five – the day I told my Dad I was pregnant.  (The steak was made with Jack Daniels.  Which is probably why my daughter fell all the time while she was learning to walk.)

After all was said and done over the course of my pregnancy, I gained about 30 pounds.  The Institute of Medicine’s guidelines suggest women of normal weight gain 25-35 pounds and overweight women gain 15-25 pounds while pregnant.

WebMD reports that “the reason why these kids have a high heart risk by 9 years of age is their fat mass. But exactly why children tend to be fat if their mothers gain too much weight during pregnancy isn’t clear.”  It seems pretty obvious, right?  The old saying goes, “You are what you eat.”  Your baby eats what you eat, so if you’re eating a lot of fatty foods, your fetus is, too.  Interestingly, Fraser says that “weight gain after week 36 of gestation was not linked to heart risk in a woman’s offspring.”  Considering that gestation reaches full term at 37 weeks, it makes sense that your baby is sort of done and ready to go after week 36.  So save up all your cravings for that last month, ladies!

Debbie Lawlor, co-author of the study, said in a news release, “I suspect that a lot of women feel that pregnancy is a time that they should eat much more and can eat more.”  But, she says, “more studies are needed that look at the whole picture to see if there is an optimal weight that will not increase the risk of low birth weight babies and not increase the risk of negative outcomes in the mother and baby at the time of birth and later in their lives.” 

Trying to define a perfect pregnancy weight seems counter-intuitive.  Strollerderby blogger Sierra pointed out yesterday that pregnant women who expect perfection from themselves are more prone to postpartum depression.  Sure, no one wants to set their kid up in utero for heart disease later in life, but as Sierra mentioned to me via email, “I gained 60+ pounds with both my pregnancies, and I am so sick of medical professionals trying to make me feel bad about it. I put on a ton of weight, had huge but healthy babies, and lost the weight within a year. I think some women are just wired that way.”  Totally.  And some of us had not-too-remarkable eight pound babies and still have yet to shed those 30 pregnancy pounds… four years later.  But I’m not naming any names.

Photo: Ed Yourdon via Flickr

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