Children of women who were overweight or obese during early pregnancy had a significantly higher rate of developing cerebral palsy than children of normal weight mothers, a large retrospective study found.

Compared to normal weight mothers, children of mothers with a BMI of 40 or higher were associated with a two-fold increased risk of cerebral palsy (adjusted HR 2.02, 95% CI 1.46-2.79), reported Eduardo Villamor, MD, of the University of Michigan, and colleagues.

However, the association between increasing maternal BMI and increasing rates of cerebral palsy was only significant among full-term infants, and was mediated by asphyxia-related neonatal complications, the authors wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Overall, these complications mediated 45% of the association between maternal BMI and risk of cerebral palsy. The authors offered a potential hypothesis for this, writing that “the effects of maternal obesity on severe neonatal asphyxia may partly be explained by traumatic labor, which often results from macrosomia.”

Not surprisingly, the risk of cerebral palsy increased with increasing BMI. Compared to children of normal weight women, children of overweight and obese women were associated with an increasing risk of cerebral palsy:

  • BMI 25-29.9: adjusted HR 1.22 (95% CI 1.11-1.33)
  • BMI 30-34.9: adjusted HR 1.28 (95% CI 1.11-1.47)
  • BMI 35-3.9.9: adjusted HR 1.54 (95% CI 1.24-1.93)

The authors argued that cerebral palsy is the most common pediatric motor disability, and its prevalence increased from 1998 to 2006 among full-term infants. The authors characterized maternal…

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Mayra Rodriguez

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Mayra Rodriguez
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