Emily Oken MD MPH Professor, Harvard Medical School Professor in the Department of Population Medicine Associate Director and Advisor, Oliver Wendell Holmes Society. Professor, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health

Prenatal Weight Influences Offspring Cognition and Behavior

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Emily Oken MD MPH Professor, Harvard Medical School Professor in the Department of Population Medicine Associate Director and Advisor, Oliver Wendell Holmes Society. Professor, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health

Dr. Oken

Emily Oken MD MPH
Professor, Harvard Medical School
Professor in the Department of Population Medicine
Associate Director and Advisor, Oliver Wendell Holmes Society.
Professor, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: In this study of over 11,000 mothers and children, we found that a mothers with higher weight in late pregnancy had children with poorer performance on tests of cognition and behavior in childhood and adolescence.

The findings are consistent with results from studies in other populations around the world, as well as animal experiments.  This research suggests that maternal nutrition is important for child health over the long-term, and specifically provides support for mothers to try to achieve healthy weight and nutritional status during pregnancy.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: In this particular study, we examined weight in late pregnancy, which is a combination of a mother’s weight entering pregnancy, and the weight she gained during pregnancy.  From other work we know that both factors are important.  It is important for women to try to enter pregnancy in good health including achieving a healthy weight if possible and also making sure they are screened for health conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure before they get pregnant, so that these conditions can be treated if present.  Also, whatever their weight when they do become pregnant, women should be aware of the recommended amount of weight gain during pregnancy and consume a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and attend their prenatal care to screen for any health conditions that might arise during pregnancy

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: It is very clear that prenatal health is important for long term health of both the mother herself and for her child.  The obesity epidemic has affected not only adults and older children, but also infants and young children.  However, pregnancy is but one step in the continuum of a healthy lifecycle.  It is important for all of us to help and support mothers in their efforts to be as healthy as possible, including nutrition education for adolescents to be aware of the importance of healthy nutrition well before they become pregnancy; ensuring appropriate health care before, during and after pregnancy; and family  leave policies to support healthy infant nutrition, ideally breastfeeding, after birth.

Citation:

Oken E, Thompson JW, Rifas-Shiman SL, et al. Analysis of Maternal Prenatal Weight and Offspring Cognition and Behavior: Results From the Promotion of Breastfeeding Intervention Trial (PROBIT) Cohort. JAMA Netw Open. 2021;4(8):e2121429. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.21429

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Aug 28, 2021 @ 11:55 am

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