Long-term consequences of maternal overweight in pregnancy on offspring later health: findings from the Helsinki Birth Cohort Study

Ann Med. 2014 Sep;46(6):434-8. doi: 10.3109/07853890.2014.919728. Epub 2014 Jun 9.


Introduction: Obesity has reached epidemic proportions worldwide. Maternal obesity has consequences for the offspring's later health. Only few studies have focused upon the long-term consequences of maternal obesity on the offspring's later health.

Methods: A total of 13,345 men and women born in Helsinki during 1934-44 belonging to the Helsinki Birth Cohort Study were included in the study. Data on maternal weight and height in late pregnancy were available from hospital records. Using validated national registers we report on the following outcomes in relation to maternal BMI: death, cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes among the offspring.

Results: Maternal BMI was positively associated with each of the later health outcomes of the offspring. The associations were strongest for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. The association with type 2 diabetes was stronger in women.

Discussion: Our findings stress the importance of early prevention of overweight and obesity in women of child-bearing age.

Keywords: Cancer; cardiovascular disease; maternal obesity; offspring health; type 2 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Coronary Disease / epidemiology
  • Coronary Disease / etiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / etiology
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / epidemiology
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / etiology*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / mortality
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Stroke / epidemiology
  • Stroke / etiology