Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.
November 29, 2021
2 min read

Prepregnancy BMI linked to allergic disease development in offspring

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.
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Maternal obesity appeared associated with increased risk for asthma in offspring, whereas maternal underweight increased risk for childhood dermatitis, according to study results published in Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology.

“Many previous studies have found a direct link between a mother’s weight and some allergic diseases,” Sebastian A. Srugo, MSc, an epidemiologist at the Univerity of Ottawa, told Healio. “Still, these findings are remarkable. They show that your mother’s health during pregnancy can affect you years into the future and predetermine your long-term health to some extent.”

A pregnant person
Source: Adobe Stock
Sebastian A. Srugo

Because prior studies on the subject may be limited by information and selection biases, Srugo and colleagues conducted the retrospective population-based cohort study in Ontario between 2012 and 2014 to assess the impact of prepregnancy maternal BMI and gestational weight gain on anaphylaxis, asthma, dermatitis and rhinitis, common pediatric allergic diseases.

The researchers collected data using maternal-newborn records from the provincial birth registry linked with health administrative databases and followed 248,017 infants for up to 7 years. The mothers assessed were aged 12 to 50 years.

When researchers looked at children of mothers with available BMI data, they found that 52% were born to mothers with a prepregnancy BMI in the normal range (18.5 kg/m2 to 24.9 kg/m2), and 19% were born to mothers with adequate weight gain during pregnancy. Conversely, about a half of the infants were born to mothers with overweight (25 kg/m2 to 29.9 kg/m2) or obesity ( 30.0 kg/m2), and one-third to mothers who gained excess weight.

After a median follow-up of 6 years, 0.5% of infants were diagnosed with anaphylaxis (0.22 incidence rate per 100,000 person-days), 13.4% with asthma (6.8 incidence rate), 21.8% with dermatitis (12.4 incidence rate) and 3.3% with rhinitis (1.54 incidence rate).

Researchers found that maternal obesity increased risk for asthma in offspring compared with maternal normal weight (adjusted HR = 1.08; 95% CI, 1.05-1.11) but decreased risk for anaphylaxis (aHR = 0.83; 95% CI, 0.69-0.99) and dermatitis (aHR = 0.97; 95% CI, 0.94-0.99).

Also, maternal underweight was associated with increased risk for dermatitis (aHR = 1.06; 95% CI, 1.02-1.1).

The study found no connection between gestational weight gain in mothers and any future allergic diseases in the children, but the researchers observed a trend toward decreased risks with inadequate weight gain and increased risk with excess weight gain. There also was no evident connection between prepregnancy BMI and rhinitis and no evidence of any effects on allergic diseases based on the sex of the infants.

“Currently, this is early research,” Srugo told Healio. “However, it does support a link between a mother’s health during pregnancy and child health. Health professionals may use this information to highlight the importance of healthy choices during pregnancy, all while making sure that mothers are not overburdened by information and stress.”

For more information:

Sebastian A. Srugo, MSc, can be reached at ssrug082@uottawa.ca.