Heart Health

02 October 2009

Obese mom = heart defect in baby

Women who were overweight or obese before they became pregnant are significantly more likely to give birth to a baby with a heart defect.

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Women who were overweight or obese before they became pregnant are significantly more likely to give birth to a baby with a heart defect.

The risk of having a baby with congenital heart defects was around 18% greater if a woman was overweight or obese when she became pregnant than it was among normal-weight women, a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found.

Ten heart defects tied to obesity, overweight
Researchers analysed data on 6,440 infants with congenital heart defects and 5,673 infants without birth defects for the study, the results of which were published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Mothers with type 1 or 2 diabetes, which is a strong risk factor for heart defects, were excluded from the study.

Out of 25 types of heart defects that the researchers looked at, 10 were found to be associated with maternal obesity and five with the mother being overweight.

"Congenital heart defects are the most common types of birth defect and among all birth defects they are a leading cause of illness, death and medical expenditures," Edwin Trevathan, director of the CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, said in a statement.

Important to maintain a healthy weight
Obesity is defined as having a body mass index – calculated by dividing a person's weight in kilograms by their height squared in meters – greater than 30, while the official definition of overweight in women is having a body mass index greater than 27.3.

In health terms, being obese means a person is at greater risk for a whole host of maladies, ranging from high blood pressure to diabetes, heart disease and stroke – and this study shows that the health risk can be passed on to children.

"This provides another reason for women to maintain a healthy weight. In addition to the impact on a woman's own health and the known pregnancy complications associated with maternal obesity, the baby's health could be at risk," said CDC epidemiologist Suzanne Gilboa.

(Sapa-AP, October 2009)

Read more: Heart Centre

 

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