© 2022 90.5 WESA
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Health, Science & Tech

Study Finds Link Between Mother’s Weight And Infant Mortality


  Getting to a healthy weight and gaining the correct amount of weight during pregnancy have big implications for a baby’s health, according to a study done by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.

The study found that women who gained either too little or too much weight during their pregnancy put their baby at an increased risk for infant mortality.

The study also found that obese women, even those who gained the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy, had a risk of infant death that was twice as high as women whose body mass index was considered normal before their pregnancy.

Research was done using Pennsylvania birth certificates from 2003 to 2011. The researchers compared infant death with the weight of the mother before and during pregnancy.  

Lisa Bodnar, associate professor of epidemiology and obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Pittsburgh, says while specific causes of heightened infant mortality are still being researched, there are two major factors that could be at play.

There seems to be a correlation between overweight mothers and mothers who gained very little weight during pregnancy and premature birth, according to Bodnar. Additionally, babies born to obese women may have more traumatic births, even at full term. These are both risk factors for infant mortality.

Bodnar says talking about obesity and pregnancy in the same breath is sometimes difficult.

“We really have to view it as a societal perspective and that our society has really built an environment that leads to this epidemic of obesity that we have,” she said.

Researchers were careful to control for other environmental influences on a woman’s circumstances, like education, income and relationship status.

“Our analysis controls for those factors, so it accounts for them, to say that even if we held all of these factors constant, there’s still a relationship between obesity and the risk of infant death,” said Bodnar.

This study could be potentially helpful for primary care physicians and Ob/gyns.

“We really hope this information empowers healthcare providers to talk about the benefits of preconception weight loss with all obese, reproductive-age women,” says Bodnar.