In addition to documenting a number of characteristics about the mothers and the family environment, the researchers gauged the children's cognitive function based on their performance on Peabody Individual Achievement Test reading recognition and math assessments.
The researchers calculated the mothers' body mass index (BMI) based on their reported heights and weights. More than half of mothers had normal BMIs before pregnancy, and 9.6 percent were obese, meaning they had a BMI of 30 or higher.
Controlling for all other variables, the analysis showed that maternal prepregnancy obesity was negatively associated with math and reading test scores. Children of obese women scored, on average, three points lower on reading and two points lower on math than did children of healthy-weight women. The mean reading score among all the children was 106.1 points and the mean math score was 99.9.
Though the score differences seem small, Tanda noted that these effects of prepregnancy obesity were equivalent to a seven-year decrease in the mothers' education and significantly lower family income, two other known risk factors that negatively affect childhood cognitive function.
Tanda said clinicians could use these findings to help encourage women patients of childbearing age to maintain a healthy weight, especially if they plan to get pregnant.
"This is a large population study, so at the individual level we can't say that one person's decision to change her weight will change her child's outcome," she said. "But these findings suggest that children born to women who are obese before pregnancy might need extra suppor
|Contact: Pamela Salsberry|
Ohio State University