Researchers are now regularly reporting health conditions, birth complications and long-term health outcomes that affect infants born to overweight and obese mothers. Along those lines is a report that infants born to obese mothers are more likely to suffer from lower than healthy iron levels. The report was gathered from research completed at Tufts University and Tufts Medical Center. At the heart of the lower iron levels is the hormone hepcidin. Hepcidin regulates iron levels and obese women have higher levels of hepcidin than pregnant women of a normal weight.
Study Size is Important
Unfortunately the study size is not impressive. There were only 30 women included in the study. One half of the women were obese with a BMI of 30 or more. The other half of the women had a normal BMI. Blood was drawn from both groups in the second trimester. The iron level of fetal blood was measured using cord blood.
Pregnant women who tested positive for high levels of hepcidin gave birth to infants with low iron levels more often than women with normal levels of hepcidin.
Researchers believe inflammation is the problem. Obesity causes constant inflammation and the immune system responds to the inflammation in many ways – which could account for increased risk of hypertension, diabetes and other health problems. One of the ways the body reacts is by producing more proteins that directly impact hepcidin levels. More hepcidin leads to low iron levels in infants. Low iron levels can lead to developmental delays that may affect infants throughout childhood and adulthood.
Dieting and Pregnancy
This study could be connected with the recent reports that dieting is now safe during pregnancy if the expecting woman is overweight or obese. Doctors are suggesting pregnant women eat healthy, controlled calorie diets and stop expecting they can eat for two. The body does not need double the calories during pregnancy, especially if there is already extra stores on-hand. Overweight and obese women should be eating healthy diets, exercising as approved and taking prenatal vitamins every day.
Women who know they want to get pregnant and are currently overweight or obese will definitely benefit from losing weight prior to pregnancy. Reaching a normal weight is ideal, but losing just 10 or 20 percent of total body weight will have a significant impact on pregnancy outcome and risk of infant complications.
Source: Journal of Perinatology. July 11, 2012.