Weight gain in pregnancy does not increase the risk of premature death in progeny later in life, that's according to new UK research published in the journal Heart.
Carried out by a team of researchers from the University of Aberdeen in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh, it is the first study to look at the long-term effects of mothers' weight gain during pregnancy on children.
The team used data from the Aberdeen Children of the 1950s Birth Cohort to follow up children whose mothers had had their weight gain recorded during pregnancy, enabling the researchers to investigate the impact of lifestyle factors in the children's adulthood.
The results showed that the mother's rate of weight gain was not associated with their children's risk of death or heart problems later in life, with only a very extreme rate of weight gain during pregnancy associated with an increased risk of stroke in offspring.
However the team also found that the adult offspring could help to offset this risk by improving their own health and lifestyle factors, with lead author of the study Dr Sohinee Bhattacharya commenting that, "Once we took the adults' lifestyle factors into account such as BMI and smoking status, this difference disappeared.
So this study provides a very important public health message you can't do very much about your mother's weight gain in pregnancy, but if you lead a healthy life -- you can mitigate any effects of this on your risk of having heart disease or dying prematurely."
Previous research has found that children who were born to mothers who were obese or overweight in pregnancy were at greater risk of death or heart-related health problems later in life, with experts warning that excessive weight gain can also increase the risk of other conditions including gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, a range of complications in delivery, difficulties initiating breastfeeding, increased postpartum weight retention in the mothers, and an increased risk of being overweight and obese later in life for both mothers and children.
However the team behind this new research noted that until now no study has had adequate follow-up time to assess the effects on cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks, and mortality in adulthood.