N.C. – July 18, 2017 – A
new study has found that children born extremely premature to women who are
overweight or obese before the pregnancy are at an increased risk for low
scores on tests of intelligence and cognitive processes that influence
self-regulation and control, according to researchers at Wake Forest
Baptist Medical Center.
The study is
published in the current online issue of The Journal of Pediatrics.
one-third of women entering pregnancy are either overweight or obese in this
country, and that is a cause for concern,” said the study’s lead author
Elizabeth T. Jensen, Ph.D., assistant professor of epidemiology in
the division of public health sciences at
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “There is accumulating medical evidence
that there is a relationship between maternal obesity and neurocognitive
function in children, and our study adds to this evidence.”
her colleagues conducted the study to assess the association between maternal
pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI) and weight gain during pregnancy and
children’s later cognitive abilities.
included 535 children previously enrolled in the NIH-funded, multi-center
Extremely Low Gestational Age Newborns study. The research team evaluated the
relationship of both pre-pregnancy BMI and pregnancy weight gain to cognitive
and academic outcomes in the children at age 10.
analysis of the data the investigators found that mothers’ pre-pregnancy
obesity increased the risk of their children scoring lower on verbal
intelligence, spelling, and cognitive control.
highlights that some of the adverse risk for infants born preterm
lies within pre-pregnancy obesity, as opposed to excessive pregnancy weight
gain,” Jensen said.
findings do not establish causality, they do suggest that
behavioral interventions to reduce pre-pregnancy weight among
women might mitigate some of these impairments in their children born
the study was provided by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and
Stroke, 5U01NS040069-05 and 2R01NS040069-06A2, and the National Institute of
Child Health and Development, 5P30HD018655-28.
are Jelske W. van der Burg, M.Sc., of VU University Amsterdam, The
Nethlerlands; Thomas M. O’Shea, M.D., University of North Carolina School of
Medicine; Robert M. Joseph, Ph.D., and Tim Heeren, Ph.D., Boston University;
Elizabeth N. Allred, M.S., and Alan Leviton, M.D., Boston Children’s
Hospital and Harvard Medical School; and Karl C. K. Kuban, M.D., Boston Medical