Obesity During Pregnancy May Contribute to Child’s Risk for Asthma

A study published online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health claims children born to women who are overweight when they become pregnant may be more likely to have asthma by adolescence. In fact the European researchers found that asthma-like respiratory symptoms were up to 30 percent more likely among teenagers whose mothers were overweight or obese during fetal development.

According to a report from WebMD, the researchers write that the prevalence of children’s asthma has risen substantially worldwide since the 1970s and environmental factors may play a key role. One reason may be that the prevalence of overweight and obese mothers also has risen dramatically.

The scientists examined the respiratory health of about 7,000 teenagers, 15 and 16, all born in northern Finland between July 1985 and June 1986. Information also was provided by medical professionals on the height and weight of the women before pregnancy and the medical history of their parents.

The researchers found that:

  • One in 10 of the adolescents wheezed and one in five had wheezed at some point.
  • 6 percent had asthma, and one in 10 had been diagnosed with asthma at some point.
  • Teens whose mothers had been seriously overweight or obese before they became pregnant were 20 to 30 percent more likely to wheeze, have wheezed, or had asthma currently or previously.
  • Teens whose mothers were among the heaviest were 47 percent more likely to have severe wheezing difficulty.

The researchers say their findings do not show that prepregnancy obesity definitely causes respiratory symptoms among teens. But they conclude that increases in rates of children’s asthma and its symptoms may be at least partly related to the rapid rise in obesity in recent years.