A recent study, presented on February 15, involving 16 pregnant women, divided evenly between obese and lean subjects, conducted at the Mother Infant Research Institute (MIRI) at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, "found that fetuses of obese women had differences in gene expression as early as the second trimester."
Apoptosis, a normal development process that fetuses go through involving programmed cell death, were found to be lowered during the gestation period of the obese women. Apoptosis is a critical, natural part of normal fetal neurodevelopment, essentially clearing out cells for new growth, a "pruning" process if you will.
Obese women having obese children often isn't all too surprising to moms, "but what might surprise them is the potential effect it has on the brain development," of the child, says Dr. Andrea Edlow, lead author of the study and fellow in Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Tufts Medical Center.
At conception, studies show, that a third of women in the U.S. are obese, a rapidly growing epidemic. Increased rates of children having postnatal neurodevelopmental abnormalities such as those with autistic behavior, it seems, can be linked to obesity. However, it is still too soon to know for sure the implications of these findings.
It is clear; though, that developing natural habits pre-conception will likely play a role in the healthy development of a child. However, it is difficult for many to accept the opposite being true.
Obesity during pregnancy linked to birth defects
This isn't the first study of it's kind. In 2009, a study conducted by researchers from Newcastle University and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that maternal obesity presents a higher chance of producing "children with birth defects than women of a healthier weight."
February 15, the findings of the study with specifics regarding brain development of a fetus and the role maternal obesity may play, was presented at the annual Pregnancy Meeting in San Francisco, California. Researchers from Tufts Medical Center were present.
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