Expectant mums must eat healthy as obesity can start in the womb
The general "understanding" is that overweight parents are more likely to have overweight children.
It is common for doctors to advise couples wishing to get pregnant to maintain a healthy weight. While it does not guarantee fertility, having a healthy weight nonetheless increases the chances of a successful conception. Likewise, the unhealthy behaviour of a mother may affect the wellbeing of her unborn child and cause obesity in the child even before birth.
According to Dr Mohammed Al Hadad, head of the Bariatric and Metabolic Surgery Centre, Healthpoint, there is a "clearly established link" between obesity in childhood and obesity as an adult. The general "understanding" is that overweight parents are more likely to have overweight children, he added.
He said that obesity passes from one generation to the next as children learn bad habits from their parents, growing up to think that eating too much and eating the wrong foods is normal.
"To break that cycle, we need to work with parents to solve their own diet problems, so they pass a healthy lesson on to their children rather than a harmful one."
Where the mother is overweight during pregnancy, studies show a strong connection between maternal obesity and children who are larger than average at birth. "These babies typically hold on to that fat during follow-up checks as infants. The implication is that obesity can start in the womb, affected by the mother's metabolism as the embryo develops from conception through to birth," he said.
Additionally, where healthcare professionals have intervened to treat obesity during pregnancy - usually as part of treating other maternal health issues such as gestational diabetes - the results for both the mother's wellbeing and that of the child have been positive.
The message is this: For young couples starting a family, look to your own health as your first step in preparing for parenthood. Start establishing those good habits that you hope to pass on to your children, so that they may learn from your positive example as they grow.
"This is important for both parents, but it has particular urgency for mothers. By acting early, a mother can give her baby the healthiest possible start in life even before she brings it into the world," said Dr Al Hadad.
Another doctor said that bariatric surgery is increasingly becoming a "critical support" for obese women who are planning to have a baby. "Apart from shedding significant amounts of pounds, the surgery has also been found to lead to improvements in other medical conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension and cardiovascular disease, among others - all of which can affect a woman's ability to conceive," said Dr Rohit Kumar, medical director and head of surgery, Medeor 24X7 Hospital.
Generally speaking, clinical practice guidelines do not specifically recommend bariatric surgery for treating infertility. "This procedure is not for everyone and certain guidelines and considerations, including a person's body mass index (BMI), have been put in place to ensure that it is the right solution for the patient," he said.
For those who have undergone the procedure and are planning to conceive, they are advised to delay pregnancy for 12-18 months to allow their bodies to stabilise first. If weight is a factor in the couples' inability to conceive, dietary and lifestyle changes are "part and parcel" of this comprehensive self-care.
"Infertility is a devastating and frustrating situation to be in for couples who have long dreamt of starting their own families. However, there is still hope considering that a number of medical procedures are now available to help turn their dream into a reality," said Dr Rohit.
Parent-baby obesity link
Young couples starting a family need to look to their own health as the first step in preparing for parenthood. Here's why:
1-Studies have shown a strong connection between maternal obesity and children who are larger than average at birth
2-Doctors say that there is a clearly established link between obesity in childhood and obesity as an adult
3-Children learn bad habits from their parents, growing up to think that eating the wrong foods is normal
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