Maternal obesity, gestational weight gain, and risk of asthma and atopic disease in offspring: a study within the Danish National Birth Cohort

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2013 Apr;131(4):1033-40. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2012.09.008. Epub 2012 Nov 2.


Background: High pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI) and excessive gestational weight gain (GWG) are suggested to influence risk of asthma and atopic disease in offspring.

Objective: We examined the effect of BMI and GWG on risk of asthma, wheezing, atopic eczema (AE), and hay fever in children during the first 7 years of life.

Methods: This was a cohort study of 38,874 mother-child pairs from the Danish National Birth Cohort (enrollment 1996-2002) with information from the 16th week of pregnancy and at age 6 months, 18 months, and 7 years of the child. Odds ratios (ORs) with 95% CIs were calculated by logistic regression with adjustment for potential confounders.

Results: During the first 7 years of life, 10.4% of children developed doctor-diagnosed asthma, 25.8% AE, and 4.6% hay fever. Maternal BMI and to a lesser extent GWG were associated with doctor-diagnosed asthma ever. In particular, BMI≥35 (adjusted OR, 1.87; 95% CI, 0.95-3.68) and GWG≥25 kg (adjusted OR, 1.97; 95% CI, 1.38-2.83) were associated with current severe asthma at age 7 years. Maternal BMI was also associated with wheezing in offspring, with the strongest association observed between BMI≥35 and late-onset wheezing (adjusted OR, 1.87; 95% CI, 1.28-2.73). Maternal BMI and GWG were not associated with AE or hay fever.

Conclusions: Maternal obesity during pregnancy was associated with increased risk of asthma and wheezing in offspring but not with AE and hay fever, suggesting that pathways may be nonallergic.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asthma / complications
  • Asthma / diagnosis
  • Asthma / pathology*
  • Birth Weight
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / diagnosis
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / pathology*
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / diagnosis
  • Obesity / pathology*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pregnancy
  • Respiratory Sounds / physiopathology
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Seasonal / diagnosis
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Seasonal / pathology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Weight Gain*