Maternal Obesity Linked to Birth Defects

Increased risks may include neural tube defects, cardiovascular anomalies and cleft palate
By Rick Ansorge
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Feb. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Compared to children whose mothers are normal weight, those with obese mothers may be at higher risk of congenital anomalies, according to study findings published in the Feb. 11 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Katherine J. Stothard, Ph.D., of Newcastle University in Newcastle upon Tyne, U.K., and colleagues conducted a systematic review of 39 relevant studies and a meta-analysis of 18 studies.

The researchers found that maternal obesity was associated with an increased risk of neural tube defects, spina bifida and cardiovascular anomalies (odds ratios, 1.87, 2.24 and 1.30, respectively). They also found that maternal obesity was associated with an increased risk of septal anomalies, cleft palate, cleft lip and palate, anorectal atresia, hydrocephaly and limb reduction anomalies.

"Further research should be powered to investigate the complete range of body mass index to investigate the possible pattern of dose response, which may contribute to understanding the etiology of these congenital anomalies," the authors write. "Furthermore, large, high-quality, population-based studies are needed to confirm or refute associations for several other congenital anomaly groups or subtypes that have currently only been investigated in very small numbers, such as renal anomalies and genital anomalies, or have not been investigated at all, such as respiratory anomalies."

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