Maternal obesity can cause neuropsychiatric problems in children – study
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Maternal obesity can cause neuropsychiatric problems in children – study

Offspring of obese women have higher rates of autism, eating and sleeping disorders, Ben-Gurion University researchers find

Illustrative image of a 9-10-week-old human fetus. (Flickr/lunar caustic/CC BY-SA)
Illustrative image of a 9-10-week-old human fetus. (Flickr/lunar caustic/CC BY-SA)

Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and Soroka University Medical Center researchers say maternal obesity can cause neuropsychiatric issues in their children, defined as autism, eating, sleeping and motor disorders, in the long-term.

Obesity is already known to be a risk factor for adverse maternal, fetal and offspring outcomes. It has been found to be associated with future cardiovascular morbidity, ophthalmic complications like diabetic retinopathy, and even malignancies such as ovarian and breast cancer in the offspring, the researchers said in a statement.

Now, in a study published in the Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics, the researchers set out to examine the long-term effects of maternal obesity on neuropsychiatric health aspects of the offspring up to age 18.

The study compared the delivery outcomes of obese versus non-obese mothers. It included 242,342 deliveries between 1991 and 2014 at Soroka hospital in Beersheba, of which 3,290 were children of obese mothers.

“We found that compared to children born to non-obese mothers, this group had a higher rate of neuropsychiatric-related hospitalizations, with specific illnesses being more prevalent, including Autism Spectrum Disorders and other psychiatric issues,” said Dr. Eyal Sheiner, director of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Soroka and vice dean for student affairs at BGU’s Faculty of Health Sciences in the statement.

“It is therefore of great importance to consult, educate and take other measures of intervention to reduce pre-pregnancy obesity,” he said.

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