Being Overweight Has a Whole New Risk – Your Baby Could Be Born Older!
Eat for two! Eat dry fruits and ghee! Don’t worry about your weight and how you look – your baby needs it! Every pregnant woman has, sometime or the other, been through this grind. Well-meaning relatives and friends do their best to fatten her up as they believe it will help in the nutritional requirement and development of her baby. The mom-to-be ends up being overweight and losing this extra weight after her delivery is a mammoth task. But that’s not even the biggest problem. A new research in the field of maternity health has brought forth a dangerous risk that being overweight could pose for your infant!
How healthy your baby will be at birth is a combination of several factors. It depends on how smooth your pregnancy was and how healthy you have been, your and your husband’s genetic makeup, environmental factors, and some extraneous factors that even medical science can’t quite define. You know only one thing for sure – he will be a little infant with tiny hands and feet whose body still has a lot of developing to do. But what if this isn’t certain either? What if he is actually OLDER than you think?
A research team at the Hasselt University in Belgium collected the BMI scores of several women who later became pregnant. After their deliveries, the team took samples of blood from the umbilical cord and placenta. Here’s the unsettling conclusion they arrived upon. It is making us think twice about the kind of lifestyle we follow during pregnancy!
The finding: “Women who are overweight while pregnant are more likely to have babies who are BIOLOGICALLY OLDER than those born to women of a healthy weight. This could put the babies at a higher risk of developing chronic diseases later in life, and may reduce their life expectancy.”
In simple terms, babies born to obese moms could be up to TEN YEARS OLDER than babies born to women with a healthy weight!
What is your Baby’s Biological Age?
No, this isn’t his calendar age but the age of his cells. Our biological age has something to do with our DNA. These bits of DNA are called telomeres and they shrink every time our cells divide. This means that they continue to shorten all through our life, as we grow older. The shorter your telomeres, the likelier you could be to be at risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. As per the findings of the study, the telomeres of babies born to obese women were 5.5 percent shorter than the babies of mothers with a healthy BMI. This translates to an aging of almost five to ten years!
Why Does Being Overweight Cause Ageing in Babies?
The reason is similar to why it causes premature aging in adults. If you are overweight, your body has excess fat tissue. This can trigger inflammation, produce chemicals that cause stress to your body, and ultimately damage your cells. This damage can make its way to your baby’s body via the placenta. Moreover, if you were overweight even before you conceived, you may pass this trait on to your baby via your genes. It is even possible that the father’s weight could play a role too though this hasn’t been tested yet.
Pregnancy is a momentous and extremely special time in your life. While it is important to gain some weight at this time, your eating habits should not be tailored around “gaining weight”. Not only can this complicate your pregnancy but it can also affect your baby, as the study has conclusively proved. According to experts, a woman with normal weight before pregnancy should gain anywhere between 11 kg and 15 kg. Those who are carrying twins should expect to gain more, between 18 Kg and 20 kg. If you are overweight or underweight, the weight gain during pregnancy should be around 7 to 11 kg or 12 to 18 kg, respectively.
What is critical is that you should get the right nutrients, especially vitamins, folic acid, protein, carbohydrates, calcium and iron. You must also get some amount of physical activity through brisk walking, prenatal yoga, or simple exercises prescribed by your doctor. If you have had weight problems in the past or have an over/under thyroid gland, you need specific attention at this time. It is best to get on a diet and exercise plan as recommended by your doctor.
Stay healthy, ladies. You and your baby both deserve to!