Women who were overweight or obese before they became pregnant
are significantly more likely to give birth to a baby with a heart
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
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
(Sapa-AP, October 2009)
Read more: Heart Centre