Background: Women often blame weight gain in early adulthood on having a baby.
Purpose: The aim was to estimate the weight gain attributable to having a baby, after disentangling the effects of other factors that influence weight change at this life stage.
Methods: A longitudinal study of a randomly selected cohort of 6458 Australian women, aged 18-23 years in 1996, was conducted. Self-report mailed surveys were completed in 1996, 2000, 2003, and 2006, and data were analyzed in 2008.
Results: On average, women gained weight at the rate of 0.93% per year (95% CI=0.89, 0.98) or 605 g/year (95% CI=580, 635) for a 65-kg woman. Over the 10-year study period, partnered women with one baby gained almost 4 kg more, and those with a partner but no baby gained 1.8 kg more, than unpartnered childless women (after adjustment for other significant factors: initial BMI and age; physical activity, sitting time, energy intake (2003); education level, hours in paid work, and smoking).
Conclusions: Having a baby has a marked effect on 10-year weight gain, but there is also an effect attributable to getting married or living with a partner. Social and lifestyle as well as energy balance variables should be considered when developing strategies to prevent weight gain in young adult women.
Copyright 2010 American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.