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15 Ways Pregnancy Influences Child Obesity

It’s no surprise to any of us to hear that obesity in an epidemic in America and around the world. And each year we hear more about how the problem is impacting the youngest generations. For the most part, researchers agree that the epidemic is related to a lifestyle problem. Now, they are saying that it begins and ends with Mom. Science shows us that the diet during pregnancy can have huge implications on offspring. In fact, the associations are so strong that what a pregnant woman eats can actually influence the DNA of her baby. The consequences are lasting, possibly for a lifetime.

But, some of the most startling news comes from the social and environmental factors that are more difficult to change than nutritional habits. Studies say that it is about so much more than food intake, and has everything to do with overall lifestyle before, during, and even after pregnancy.

Did you know that things like your job, and where you live, the air you breathe, even the healthy foods you eat can also influence your child’s DNA? It all happens in utero, where pretty much every single thing you encounter is transferred to your baby via the umbilical cord. Turns out, everything matters. From the amount of fat, sugar and protein in our diet to the type of exercise we get and the antidepressants we take. Everything we do has some sort of implication in determining if our babies will be fat…at birth, in childhood, adolescence, and even into adulthood.

The cold, hard truth is that we ARE making our babies fat, even without meaning to.

15 Taking Anti-Depressants

Even though the use of antidepressants during pregnancy has been determined to be safe and even beneficial for many women, the idea has remained controversial in many circles. Currently as many as 20% of American women take an antidepressant during pregnancy. Some recent studies have touted big concerns over this and for good reason. Statics are now showing a correlation between mothers who took SSRIs (serotonin inhibitors) and long-term metabolic disturbances in their offspring, including an increase in fat retention.

The study does not suggest that pregnant mothers taking antidepressants should quit taking them, but instead that the medical community should seek to identify high-risk infants in order to apply interventions that might help them beat the odds. Researchers say the information is still new and that in order to help future generation we first have to understand why antidepressants are causing this type of adverse reactions. Once we understand how it is happening, we can start working to reverse it. The key is in finding ways to continue treating these women with the drugs they need, without causing potential harm to their offspring.

14 Exposure To Air Pollutants During Pregnancy

According to research related to women who are exposed to common air pollutants, their exposure to a chemical called PAH during pregnancy, put their infants at elevated risk for obesity. PAH is typically associated with second hand smoke and exhaust fumes. Children exposed to the highest levels in utero were as much as 79% more likely to be obese. Children who were studied measured high levels of fat in their body composition. This is especially meaningful because most adult fat cells are formed in the first year of life beginning in utero.

Obesity does not occur by multiplication of fat cells, but by the swelling of existing cells. Over production of these fat deposits are known to put children at increased risk for weight gain problems. Women who live in densely populated cities are the highest risk for elevated exposure. Some women are taking the threat very seriously, by refusing to be in the presence of anyone who is smoking, and also by sitting inside their car while pumping gas to avoid extended close contact with air pollutants.

13 Eating Junk Food During Pregnancy

We’ve all heard it before, “You are what you eat”. But, in pregnancy it’s well understood that your baby also eats what you do. The little one has no say about what he or she consumes in utero, and you have much more influence on his or her taste buds than you think. If you have ever heard a mother say that her child loves the very food that she obsessively craved during pregnancy, it is probably true.

New studies have revealed that Moms who excessively eat junk food are essentially setting up their offspring for failure. Apparently, babies develop an eternal craving to keep eating exactly what you ate you during pregnancy. The same is true for what you eat during the time that you are breastfeeding. In fact, scientists are not even calling it a craving, they say these children are born with addictions to ‘bad food’, high is saturated fats and sugar.

It all has to do with the way the reward system is impacted during gestation. Basically, the offspring learns to eat for pleasure rather than for nutrition and the affects is life- long. Babies exposed to concentrated amounts of fast food, junk food, and candies are conditioned to seek those same things in order to “feel good”. They babies also show a tendency to miss the cues that let us know when we are full, which can lead to a life of struggling with over eating.

12 Where You Live During Pregnancy 

For those who live among of subgroup of people where a high percentage of the population is overweight, under active, and practicing poor nutrition: they could be putting yourself at a big risk during pregnancy and into motherhood. When women have peers, including neighbors, family, and friends that have accepted being grossly overweight as the norm, can struggle to sustain and different lifestyle.

This most commonly happens in areas of poor socio-economic status, when women want to make better health and lifestyle choices, but they find it difficult to find support in their community. There is no doubt that is harder to achieve optimal health goals without the support and positive influence of others who have a similar mindset. It is not easy to go against the crowd and is difficult to constantly defend a position that does not reflect the practices of the group. Women might also struggle to find healthy choices when such groups typically commune together for meals and leisure activities.

11 The Amount Of Weight Gained During Pregnancy

It’s been well known for awhile now that eating for two during pregnancy is not such a good idea after all. We just don’t need that many calories and neither does the baby. It just results in excessive weight gain that most women never lose. So much so in fact, that current statics show that 70% of overweight women gain too much weight in pregnancy and 33% of healthy weight women did as well.

Overall, less than that 1/3 of American women stay within the recommend weight gain limits. The biggest bummer is how much those extra pregnancy pounds can impact the baby. The more excess weight a woman gains in pregnancy, the more likely her baby is to be overly large at birth. Large birth weight babies have the greatest risk for being overweight at any time in their life. New evidence has shown that recent estimates for appropriate pregnancy weight have been set too high.

Previous weights considered “normal” have now been associated with obesity risk in offspring. As a result, the standards have been changed. The new norm? It is now considered healthy to gain between 11-35 pounds during pregnancy. The numbers on the lower end are for obese women and higher numbers for women that show healthy BMI numbers. Most American women fall in the mid range between healthy and obese and only need to gain 15-25 pounds in their pregnancy. Every pound beyond increases the chances that their child will struggle with weight issues at some point in their life.

10 Low Activity Lifestyle

Many pregnant women today do not meet the recommend activity levels during pregnancy. There have always been concerns over how much women should or should not do, how they can safely lift or carry, and even if they should work out or not. But, now, in the midst of the obesity epidemic, concerns over too little activity are arising. Let’s just say, it’s not exactly a good thing to kick your feet up for 9 plus months.

Women who are inactive during their pregnancy put themselves at risk for all sorts of health complications, including Gestational Diabetes, hypertension, and weight gain. All of which influence a large birth weight baby and put him or her at risk for health and weight related issues for the entirety of their life.

Health experts now say that all pregnant women, regardless of their fitness level can benefit from a minimum of 150 minutes of activity per week. Even women who were not previously active should aim to increase their activity throughout their pregnancy by starting in small, frequent increments, even just 10 minutes at a time. Doing so can reduce the chances of other risk factors including offspring obesity, metabolic disorders, and Type 1 Diabetes.

9 High Sugar Diets

Even if you are not diagnosed with any form of Diabetes before or after pregnancy, eating a diet high in sugars can be especially detrimental to the health of your unborn baby. Studies show that mother´s who eat high sugar diets can influence the metabolic genes of future offspring for several generations. The effects are nearly irreversible and are now believed to be of greater significance than high fat diets in the obesity epidemic.

Even children with healthy diet and exercise that do not reflect the habits of their mother during the gestation period, still showed a high likelihood toward insulin resistance and genetic metabolic disorders. The metabolic changes to the DNA can be found for at least three generations in the maternal bloodline. These changes can cause a predisposition, or a genetic tendency towards obesity. A high sugar diet is one that constitutes a diet made up of at least 20% sugar intake, apparently a level that is relatively common in the typical Western Diet associated with the United States.

8 Exposure To Food Toxins

The average mother is carrying around approximately 79 environmental toxins that are known to cause abnormal fetal development. These chemicals are found in the umbilical cords of newborn babies.Some are linked with abnormal development of fat cells. Many of these toxins come from contaminants in the standard American diet through processed and refined foods.

Some of the biggest culprits are industrial seed based oils and high fructose corn syrup. But, some processed healthier foods aren’t any better, like whole grains and soy products. The chemical BPA found in many packaged foods and beverages has also been linked with obesity.

Organic pollutants are also now known to be present in natural water supplies, effecting the composition of fish. Some studies now believe that women, who eat much fish during pregnancy, expose their infants to these organic toxins that are known to be linked with Diabetes. This is especially true for Canadian Aboriginals and families of Great Lake fishermen who consume high amounts of contaminated fish.

7 Not Eating Enough Protein

Stress levels during both pregnancy and breast feeding can have an impact on genes in the event. The influence can cause the baby to be at greater risk for obesity. Some of this so called stressed is related to what experts are calling lifestyle stress or nutritional stress; it is related to the mother not eating enough protein. The stress causes changes in the way the brain functions, causing appetite stimulation and inducing the formation of fat cells.

The number of fat cells a person accumulates before their teens is a huge indicator for future obesity. Not eating enough protein is a form of malnutrition. Pregnant women who do not eat a balanced diet with sufficient amounts of protein put their offspring at increased risk for being overweight and obese. Medical experts say that intervention during pregnancy is an effective way to prevent adulthood obesity.

6 High Fat Diets

In pregnant women who consume high fat diet, the fats are not filtered out to give the baby only what it needs. The fetus in actuality receives the same concentrated amount of fat lipids that the mother intakes. Even in babies of lower than average birth weight, those that were subjected to the high fat diet of their mother had a higher percentage of fat to muscle ratio than babies exposed to healthier diets.

Later in life, the same offspring is likely to show evidence of metabolic disturbances gained in pregnancy leading to higher weights and metabolic profiles that resemble those of Diabetics. Today, more than 40% of American children are either overweight or obese. Health experts say that maternal health and nutrition may be to blame they urge all women to speak with a nutritionist prior to conceiving and early in pregnancy. A high fat diet is one that accounts for fat as more than forty percent of a person’s dietary intake and is closely linked with processed foods that are a staple of the American diet.

5 Your Occupation Before, During And After Pregnancy

Some speculation now has it, that what you do for work can have a pretty huge impact on the factors that influence offspring obesity. Those who work in desk or technology focused industries usually spend the majority of their day with little to no physical activity. Workers in the same field, as well as in many others are also subject to very short lunch breaks which are proven to lead to poor nutritional choices.

The combination of the two are detrimental before, during, and after pregnancy when a mother’s activity levels and nutrition can impact her baby for the rest of its life. A mostly sedentary pregnancy coupled with a diet of processed, high sugar and low protein choices are significant predictors that lead to obesity in babies. In addition, if a workplace does not offer breastfeeding breaks or a private, comfortable place to pump, women are much less likely to pursue or continue with breastfeeding. Not breastfeeding adds in one more that leads to obesity at any time in life.

4 Stopping Your Workouts During Pregnancy 

For decades, doctors and mother-in-laws alike, have been deadest against women working out during pregnancy. Fears of pregnancy complications have been widely misconstrued and unproven, but finally the myth that you can’t work out when you are pregnant, is being debunked. In recent years studies have shown that in most cases there is absolutely no harm in working out during pregnancy IF you were already doing so prior to pregnancy and if you are having a healthy pregnancy.

Even if you are overweight or obese, if you start an exercise regime at least a few months before you get pregnant; most women can safely continue it throughout pregnancy. And expecting mothers should continue to do so because exercising during pregnancy is associated with numerous health benefits. Staying physically active, regardless of your fitness level, can reduce your child’s chance of being born too big, and of developing weight issues later in life.

3 Maternal Smoking

We obviously already know that smoking during pregnancy poses a big threat to the unborn baby. But, did you know that one side effect of maternal smoking is offspring obesity? While smoking at anytime during pregnancy is dangerous for your baby, smoking early on may have the strongest influence on if your baby with be overweight or not. This means that trying to quite after you find out you are pregnant is not soon enough!

The habit of smoking should be ceased long before conception for the best case scenario. The long term effects are astounding. More recent studies have shown that when a mother smokes during pregnancy, her child is at risk for obesity for his or her entire life. The offspring does not grow into or outgrow the tendency. Studies show that age is irrelevant, and weight issues as a result of exposure to tobacco can surface at any time in the child’s life.

2 Maternal Obesity

Today in the US, more than half of all women of child bearing age are obese, as defined by having a BMI of greater than 30. Of those, 8% are considered extremely obese with a BMI over 40. Doctors say this is the single largest problem in obstetrics today. All complications of obesity are passed on the fetus in pregnant women. Things like the immune system function, composition of microbiomes, and hormone imbalances are all passed to the offspring. Each of these influences the baby’s chances of being overweight at any time in life, by five fold.

Babies born to obese mother are FIVE times as likely to be obese as well. Even in babies born at a healthy weight, the risk was not diminished. Their genetic make- up has already been composed of variables that give them a predisposition towards weight issues. Experts say that obesity is a serious public health issue currently in a perpetual multi-generational cycle. The only way to change it is with the future generations, to prevent the risk prior to conception.

1 Post Natal Influences

In addition to the many ways a mother can influence her baby through her nutrition and lifestyle choices, the way she and the baby interact post natal can also have huge effects on the offspring tendency towards obesity. A study done by Harvard, shows that how fast a baby gains weight can influence the same trend for his or her entire life. In addition, the duration of breastfeeding and the amount of sleep the infant gets can a play a role in future weight related issues. Accelerated weight gain in infancy is linked with obesity later in life. The longer breastfeeding is sustained, the lower the chances of obesity becomes. For each month that a baby is breastfeed, it reduces the chance of obesity by 4%. Infants who sleep less than 12 hours a day are twice as likely to be overweight by the age of 3.

Sources: Harvard, Science News, Fit Pregnancy, Live Science, Science Daily

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