Older women who had their first baby when they were teenagers are more likely to be obese than those who were not teen moms, a new study finds.
Researchers analysed data from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and found that 44% of women who had their first child when they were teens were obese, compared with 35% of those who had their first child at age 20 or later.
After adjusting for a number of factors, such as education level and race/ethnicity, the researchers determined that women who had their first child in their teens were 32% more likely to be obese in later adulthood than those who had their first child at age 20 or later.
The study findings were released online in advance of publication in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
"When clinicians care for teen mothers, we have so many immediate considerations - child care, housing, school, social and financial support - that we may fail to consider the long-term health effects of teen pregnancy," lead author Dr. Tammy Chang, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation clinical scholar at the University of Michigan, said in a foundation news release. "What we have found in our study is that teen childbirth carries a long-term risk of obesity."
The teen birth rate in the United States is one of the highest among industrialized countries. Teenagers account for one in every 11 deliveries in the nation, according to 2010 US Census data.
"These findings indicate that we need to start considering the long-term health risks of teen childbirth, as well as short-term risks, in health and policy discussions about teen pregnancy," Chang said. "And now we know that long-term risks include obesity later in adulthood."
Although the study found an association between childbirth in the teen years and greater risk of obesity later in life, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has more about teen pregnancy.