COVID-19 during pregnancy may increase obesity risk in children: Study

PTI, Mar 30, 2023, 11:03 AM IST

Credit: iStock Photo

Children born to mothers who contract COVID-19 during pregnancy may be more likely to develop obesity, according to a new study.

More than 100 million COVID-19 cases have been reported in the United States since 2019, and there is limited information on the long-term health effects of the infection.

Pregnant women make up 9 per cent of reproductive-aged women with COVID-19, which exposes millions of babies to maternal infection during foetal development over the next five years.

“Our findings suggest that children exposed in utero to maternal COVID-19 have an altered growth pattern in early life that may increase their risk of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease over time,” said Lindsay T Fourman, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Mass.

“There is still a lot of research needed to understand the effects of COVID-19 on pregnant women and their children,” she said.

The researchers studied 150 infants born to mothers who had COVID-19 during pregnancy and found they had lower birth weight followed by greater weight gain in the first year of life as compared to 130 babies whose mothers did not have a prenatal infection.

These changes have been associated with an increased risk for obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease in childhood and beyond.

“Our findings emphasise the importance of long-term follow-up of children exposed in utero to maternal COVID-19 infection, as well as the widespread implementation of COVID-19 prevention strategies among pregnant individuals,” said Andrea G Edlow, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital.

“Larger studies with longer follow-up duration are needed to confirm these associations,” she said.

The study was published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

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