Can antenatal diet and lifestyle interventions influence childhood obesity? A systematic review

Matern Child Nutr. 2018 Oct;14(4):e12628. doi: 10.1111/mcn.12628. Epub 2018 Jul 1.


Evidence suggests that adverse nutritional exposures during in utero development may contribute to heightened risk of obesity in childhood. Pregnancy offers the opportunity to modify the intrauterine environment by manipulation of diet and/or physical activity, which may result in favourable health benefits for the child. The objective of this systematic review was to determine whether antenatal lifestyle interventions in pregnant women, aimed at modifying diet and/or physical activity, and lead to a reduction in measures of offspring obesity in early childhood. Three electronic databases were searched from January 1990 to July 2017 for antenatal interventions with subsequent offspring follow-up publications. Eight trials were identified. Five trials included women from all body mass index categories, and 3 trials included obese women only. Children in the offspring follow-up studies were aged 6 months to 7 years. Measures of adiposity in the offspring (n = 1989) included weight, body mass index, z-scores, circumferences, and skinfold thicknesses. Two studies, focusing on obese women only, reported reduced measures of adiposity (subscapular skinfold thickness and weight-for-age z-score) at 6 and 12 months, respectively. The remaining 6 studies, two from infancy and 4 in early childhood found no effect on measures of adiposity. Measures of obesity up to 12 months of age have been shown to be reduced by antenatal lifestyle interventions during pregnancy in obese women. Due to the heterogeneity of the methodology of the antenatal interventions and the reported offspring outcomes we were unable to draw any conclusion on the influence of antenatal interventions on measures of obesity in early childhood.

Keywords: antenatal intervention; body composition; childhood obesity; developmental origins of disease; maternal obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Life Style*
  • Male
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Pediatric Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology
  • Prenatal Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult