Babies born to mothers who suffer from a rare metabolic complication during pregnancy are programmed to be overweight, according to a study published today in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
The study is the first to look at the long term effects on babies born to mothers with intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP), also called obstetric cholestasis, a rare complication of pregnancy characterised by the build-up of bile acids in the bloodstream.
The findings add to the strong evidence that the environment that babies are exposed to in the womb is a major cause of metabolic diseases in adults.
ICP can affect up to one in 50 pregnant women in different populations. It is caused by disruption in the flow of bile, a fluid produced by the liver to help with the digestion of fats. This can result in some leakage of bile, and in particular bile salts, into the bloodstream leading to symptoms including persistent itching and complications for both mother and baby.
The researchers looked at a cohort of babies born in Northern Finland between 1985 and 1986 and identified 45 babies who were born to mothers with ICP who were of healthy weight and had no other known diseases or complications, such as diabetes.
Although there were no differences in the birth weights of these babies compared with infants born during the same period from normal pregnancies, the team found that by age sixteen, boys born from cholestatic pregnancies had a much higher body mass index, by up to four points. They also had higher levels of the hormone insulin after a period of fasting, a symptom of type 2 diabetes. Whilst the effect in girls was smaller, waist measurements from girls of the same age born to mothers with cholestasis were increased by up to 9cm and hip measurements by up to 5cm compared with girls born from normal pregnancies.
To further investigate the effects of cholestasis during pregnancy on the health of t
|Contact: Jen Middleton|