The risk of maternal obesity to the long-term health of the offspring

James R O'Reilly, Rebecca M Reynolds

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The prevalence of maternal obesity has risen dramatically in recent years, with approximately one in five pregnant women in the UK now classed as obese (body mass index ≥ 30 kg/m2) at antenatal booking. Obesity during pregnancy has been hypothesized to exert long-term health effects on the developing child through ‘early life programming’. While this phenomenon has been well studied in a maternal undernutrition paradigm, the processes by which the programming effects of maternal obesity are mediated are less well understood. In humans, maternal obesity has been associated with a number of long-term adverse health outcomes in the offspring, including lifelong risk of obesity and metabolic dysregulation with increased insulin resistance, hypertension and dyslipidaemia, as well as behavioural problems and risk of asthma. The complex relationships between the maternal metabolic milieu and the developing foetus, as well as the potential influence of postnatal lifestyle and environment, have complicated efforts to study the programming effects of maternal overnutrition in humans. This review will examine the emerging evidence from human studies linking maternal obesity to adverse offspring outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-16
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Endocrinology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2013


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