Objective: To examine whether childbearing is associated with increased visceral adiposity and whether the increase is proportionally larger than other depots.
Methods and procedures: This prospective study examined changes in adiposity assessed via computed tomography (CT) and dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry among 122 premenopausal women (50 black, 72 white) examined in 1995-1996 and again in 2000-2001. During the 5-year interval, 14 women had one interim birth and 108 had no interim births. Multiple linear regression models estimated mean (95% confidence interval (CI)) 5-year changes in anthropometric and adiposity measures by interim births adjusted for age, race, and changes in total and subcutaneous adiposity.
Results: We found no significant differences between one interim birth and no interim births for 5-year changes in weight, BMI, total body fat, subcutaneous adipose tissue, or total abdominal adipose tissue. Visceral adipose tissue increased by 40 and 14% above initial levels for 1 birth and 0 birth groups, respectively. Having 1 birth vs. 0 births was associated with a greater increase in visceral adipose tissue of 18.0 cm2 (4.8, 31.2), P<0.01; gain of 27.1 cm2 (14.5, 39.7) vs. 9.2 cm2 (4.8, 13.6), and a borderline greater increase in waist girth of 2.3 cm (0, 4.5), P=0.05; gain of 6.3 cm (4.1, 8.5) vs. 4.0 cm (3.2, 4.8), controlling for gain in total body fat and covariates.
Discussion: Pregnancy may be associated with preferential accumulation of adipose tissue in the visceral compartment for similar gains in total body fat. Further investigation is needed to confirm these findings and determine whether excess visceral fat deposition with pregnancy adversely affects metabolic risk profiles among women.