The individual health consequences of obesity are well-established, but a recent study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine suggests that a pregnant woman’s obesity can jeopardize the health of her fetus, as well. Researchers in the study found that pre-pregnancy obesity was associated with an increased incidence of birth defects — a finding with significant public health implications, as 51% of non-pregnant American women of childbearing age are classified as overweight. Researchers determined that babies with the following seven birth defects were significantly more likely to have mothers who were obese just prior to their pregnancy:
Although the link between obesity and birth defects is not well understood, researchers believe the phenomenon may be aligned with the better-understood risks of birth defects found among diabetic mothers. They also caution that the sample size of the study was relatively small, and the study should be replicated to ensure its validity.
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