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Big mothers have heavy babies

01 March 2010

Mothers who gain more than 14 kg during pregnancy more often have babies with a high birth weight. This leads to the babies being more at risk of overweight later in life. UMCG PhD student Carianne L’Abée established this in her doctoral research and advocates informing pregnant women about these facts. L’Abée will be awarded a PhD by the University of Groningen on 10 March 2010.

Earlier research had already established that a high birth weight increased chances of becoming overweight later in life. This led to PhD student Carianne L’Abée investigating what the causes are of high birth weight. She analysed the details of 3,000 babies born in the Dutch province of Drenthe between April 2006 and April 2007. She also collected data on the parents.
The data were collected in the UMCG’s Groningen Expertise Center for Kids with Obesity (GECKO). In GECKO, the children are followed until adulthood to see which children become overweight and which do not.

Better information during pregnancy

L’Abée’s research shows that the mother’s fitness and behaviour during pregnancy have a clear influence on birth weight. Women who are diabetic or who gain more than 14 kg during pregnancy have heavier babies on average.
It therefore is important that midwives, family doctors and gynaecologists explicitly discuss the factors leading to higher birth weight with pregnant women. It is for instance worthwhile for an expecting mother to know that gaining a lot of weight during pregnancy can have consequences, not only for herself but also for her baby.
L’Abée also points out that parents of newly-borns should know that sufficient exercise and sleep in the first year will benefit how their child’s weight develops, which was another connection following from the GECKO data.

Growth curves

L’Abée also showed that the babies in Drenthe gained slightly less weight in their first year than children did a decade ago. They were, however, heavier on their first birthday. This is due to their height, but in particular to their higher birth weight. The risk of becoming overweight – despite the slighter increase in weight in the first year – is not lower, says L’Abée.
She hopes that the results of her PhD research will be used in the plans to introduce new growth curves in child health centres. The GECKO cohort babies weighed on average 3564 grams, which is 100 grams more than the Dutch average a decade ago. Since growth curves are continually adjusted to the increase, a higher weight becomes the norm. According to L’Abée, this leads to overweight children not being spotted as quickly. 

Curriculum Vitae

Carianne L’Abée (Utrecht, 1979) studied Medicine in Utrecht and Orthopedagogy in Groningen. She did her PhD research at the UMCG departments of Paediatrics and Epidemiology, within the GUIDE research school. The research was funded in part by Hutchison Whampoa Ltd and Stichting Icare (Icare Foundation children’s health centre). Icare Jeugdgezondheidszorg (Icare Youth Healthcare) aims to optimize children’s health during the first four years of their lives. It does so by preventing health problems, discovering any handicaps and defects as early as possible, providing information, answering questions and providing the best possible support to parents. Icare Jeugdgezondheidszorg covers Drenthe, parts of Overijssel, Flevoland and the northern Veluwe region.

Note for the press

Contact information: please contact the UMCG Press Office for more information: tel. (050) 361 22 00.

Last modified:15 September 2017 3.29 p.m.

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