Prenatal exposure to systemic antibacterials and overweight and obesity in Danish schoolchildren: a prevalence study

Int J Obes (Lond). 2015 Oct;39(10):1450-5. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2015.129. Epub 2015 Jul 16.


Background/objective: Prenatal exposure to antibacterials may permanently dysregulate fetal metabolic patterns via epigenetic pathways or by altering maternal microbiota. We examined the association of prenatal exposure to systemic antibacterials with overweight and obesity in schoolchildren.

Subjects/methods: We conducted a prevalence study among Danish schoolchildren aged 7-16 years using data from routine school anthropometric evaluations conducted during 2002-2013. Prenatal exposure to antibacterials was ascertained by using maternal prescription dispensations and infection-related hospital admissions during pregnancy. We defined overweight and obesity among the children using standard age- and sex-specific cutoffs. We computed sex-specific adjusted prevalence ratios (aPRs) of overweight and obesity associated with exposure to prenatal antibacterials, adjusting for maternal age at delivery, marital status, smoking in pregnancy and multiple gestation; we also stratified the analyses by birth weight.

Results: Among 9886 schoolchildren, 3280 (33%) had prenatal exposure to antibacterials. aPRs associated with the exposure were 1.26 (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.10-1.45) for overweight and 1.29 (95% CI: 1.03-1.62) for obesity. Among girls, aPRs were 1.16 (95% CI: 0.95-1.42) for overweight and 1.27 (95% CI: 0.89 to 1.82) for obesity. Among boys, aPRs were 1.37 (95% CI: 1.13-1.66) for overweight and 1.29 (95% CI: 0.96-1.73) for obesity. The aPR for overweight was higher among schoolchildren with birth weight <3500 g (aPR: 1.30, 95% CI: 1.05-1.61) than in schoolchildren with birth weight ⩾3500 g (aPR: 1.18, 95% CI: 0.95-1.46). Inversely, the association for obesity was higher among schoolchildren with birth weight ⩾3500 g (aPR: 1.35, 95% CI: 1.00-1.81) than among those who were <3500 g at birth (aPR: 1.16, 95% CI: 0.82-1.65).

Conclusions: Prenatal exposure to systemic antibacterials is associated with an increased risk of overweight and obesity at school age, and this association varies by birth weight.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Fetal Development / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mothers
  • Pediatric Obesity / chemically induced
  • Pediatric Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnant Women*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / adverse effects*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents