Context: The prevalence of obesity among women of childbearing age is increasing. Emerging evidence suggests that this has long-term adverse influences on offspring health.
Objective: The aim was to examine whether maternal body composition and gestational weight gain have persisting effects on offspring adiposity in early adulthood.
Design and setting: The Motherwell birth cohort study was conducted in a general community in Scotland, United Kingdom.
Participants: We studied 276 men and women whose mothers' nutritional status had been characterized in pregnancy. Four-site skinfold thicknesses, waist circumference, and body mass index (BMI), were measured at age 30 yr; sex-adjusted percentage body fat and fat mass index were calculated.
Main outcome measure: Indices of offspring adiposity at age 30 yr were measured.
Results: Percentage body fat was greater in offspring of mothers with a higher BMI at the first antenatal visit (rising by 0.35%/kg/m2; P<0.001) and in offspring whose mothers were primiparous (difference, 1.5% in primiparous vs. multiparous; P=0.03). Higher offspring percentage body fat was also independently associated with higher pregnancy weight gain (7.4%/kg/wk; P=0.002). There were similar significant associations of increased maternal BMI, greater pregnancy weight gain, and parity with greater offspring waist circumference, BMI, and fat mass index.
Conclusions: Adiposity in early adulthood is influenced by prenatal influences independently of current lifestyle factors. Maternal adiposity, greater gestational weight, and parity all impact on offspring adiposity. Strategies to reduce the impact of maternal obesity and greater pregnancy weight gain on offspring future health are required.