To view the original video and read the News Release, please go to http://www.nichd.nih.gov/news/releases/Pages/040710-newborn-heart-defects.aspx
Why did you undertake the study?
Dr. James MillsChief of the Pediatric Epidemiology Section, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
Dr. James Mills on camera
Dr. James Mills: Obesity during pregnancy is known to present risks for both the mothers and the infants. For the mothers, for example, obesity increases the chances for serious problems such as gestational hypertension, diabetes and Cesarean delivery. And later in life, their infants are more likely to have obesity themselves and type 2 diabetes. A number of studies have looked into whether maternal obesity can increase the risk for congenital heart defects, but some found an increased risk and others didn’t, so we undertook our study to see if we could find a definitive answer to the question.
How did you conduct the study?
Dr. Mills on camera
Dr. Mills: We analyzed records in the New York State Congenital Malformations Registry, and among 1.5 million births, we identified 7,392 children who were born with heart defects, and we compared them with 56,000 children who were born without any birth defects.
What did your study find?
Dr. Mills: We found that the more obese a woman is when she becomes pregnant, the greater the likelihood that she will give birth to a child with congenital heart defects. It’s a very impressive trend. The more obese the woman is, the more likely her child is to have a problem. So, for example, moderately obese women were 11 percent more likely than normal weight women to have a child with a heart defect. And when you got to the morbidly obese range, these women were 33 percent more likely to have a child with a heart defect.
What is the take away message of your study?
Dr. Mills: Women who are above normal body mass index who are considering getting pregnant should speak to their doctors about a sensible diet and exercise program to get their weight down to a normal level. Not only does this reduce their risk for hypertension, diabetes and other complications with the pregnancy, for themselves and for their infants, but it’s very likely that they will also be able to reduce the risk that their infants will be born with a congenital heart defect.