Obesity and pregnancy may bring surprising new risk

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - It is no secret obesity and pregnancy can be a dangerous combination for both the mother and the baby.

Now medical researchers are finding this combination could bring a surprising new risk.

"You should not think your pregnancy is going to be exactly like a woman's pregnancy who is not obese," said Dr. Karen Samples, OB/GYN.

The list goes on when it comes to health risks, but now there is one that could impact the baby's brain.

Medical researchers are finding children born to obese mothers have a lower thinking ability. In a study done on more than 3,000 five to seven year olds, kids with obese mothers had math and reading test scores two to three points lower than kids with non-obese mothers.

"It is consistent with the thought that if you have an unhealthy mother, then you have the least optimum environment to grow that brain," said Dr. Tim Howard, Family Medicine.

Right now there is not enough evidence to show a definite link between obesity and lower learning.

However, medical experts agree the best thing is for moms-to-be to maintain a healthy weight before becoming pregnant.

However if you are already pregnant, the answer is awareness.

"The best thing to do is to be aware of those risks, know about the interventions for those risks and make sure you have good prenatal care," said Dr. Samples.

Often these patients are referred to registered dieticians who monitor their eating habits and activity level throughout the pregnancy.

"We make sure they get enough calories for the fetus to develop, but also make sure they are not gaining weight rapidly," said Registered Dietician Anna Key.

The bottom line is to stay as healthy as possible throughout the pregnancy.

As for that study, all the medical experts WAFF spoke with, say it definitely raises a red flag.

"Not only does this reinforce how important it is to be mindful of obesity as a health problem that effects not just the mother but the child, but I think it also reinforces obesity is not the only thing," said Dr. Samples.

She says a child's environment can play a major role in how well they do in school.

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