The Mommy Connection: Maternal Obesity Linked to Autism

Jessica Simpson’s excess pregnancy weight has raised the eyebrows of more than a few experts. Simpson recently told a magazine reporter that she has happily put on 40 pounds over the course of her pregnancy – she is eating what she wants and she will worry about the details later, but later may be too late.

Experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, have long warned against the dangers of excessive weight gain during pregnancy. A recent study reveals that moms-to-be, who put on excess pounds, not only put their health in danger, but they jeopardize the lifelong health of their unborn child.

Researchers at the UC Davis MIND institute revealed, in the April 2012 issue of Pediatrics, a strong link between maternal obesity and developmental disorders, including and especially, autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In the study, experts observed that obese mothers were 67 percent more likely to have children with ASD and 50 percent more likely to have a child with some type of developmental disorder. The likelihood of any developmental disorder rose to 67 percent if the mother was a diabetic or became diabetic during her pregnancy.

The seemingly sudden increases in cases of autism are likely linked to the obesity rates of the nation. Sixty percent of U.S. women of child-bearing age are overweight or obese and ten percent have gestational or type 2 diabetes. Among the researchers of the study, Paula Krakowiak, PhD, told Science Daily, “…the study does not conclude that diabetes and obesity cause ASD and developmental delays, it suggests that fetal exposure to elevated glucose and maternal inflammation levels adversely affect fetal development.”

So, how much is too much? Dr. Manny Alvarez, a former OB/GYN and senior managing editor at Fox News commented to FoxNews.com that the amount of weight a woman should gain during pregnancy is directly linked to her weight before pregnancy. “If you have an ideal BMI, 20 to 25 pounds is adequate. But if your BMI is already excessive, then there’s really no need to put on excess weight.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics concurs with Dr. Alvarez, recommending weight gain of no more than 15 to 20 pounds for a single pregnancy and nor more than 35 pounds for a twin pregnancy, for women of healthy weight. In the past, studies have found links between maternal weight and low birth weight, premature delivery and increased risk for labor and delivery complications.

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