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Healthy Moms, Smart Kids? Study Shows Link Between Maternal Pre-Pregnancy Weight and Child IQ

Fertility Authority,  Dec 14, 2012

December 14, 2012

Wondering how much your pre-pregnancy weight matters in the baby-making long run? One study says your child’s IQ depends upon it.

Published earlier this week in the journal Pediatrics, the study set out to examine how pre-pregnancy BMI links to offspring cognition.

The study team at the Institute of Child Health at University College London, under direction of Emre Basatemur, analyzed data from the Millenium Cohort Study of over 19,000 children in the UK. Standardized tests on verbal, mathematical, and reasoning skills were administered to the cohort at age five and again at age seven. A general score of ability was derived from the children’s test results. Combined with the mother’s self-reported BMI, it was discovered that maternal pre-pregnancy BMI is negatively correlated with offspring IQ- a relationship that grows stronger as children age.

Simply stated, children born to overweight mothers demonstrated poorer verbal, reasoning, and number skills than children whose mothers had a healthy pre-pregnancy BMI. Moms shouldn’t panic just yet, though. For every 10 points above average BMI, the child’s IQ dropped only 1.5 point- a very slight decrease.

Further research is warranted to determine if maternal weight is the cause, or there is some other culprit. As in any scientific research, correlation does not equal causation. Maternal weight may not necessarily be the cause of a child’s lower cognitive ability.

Two key limitations of the study? Parental IQs and nutrition during pregnancy were not accounted for.

Some things we know for sure, however, are that obesity is linked to decreased egg quality, increased rate of miscarriage, and pregnancy complications. Since nutrition plays a large role in fetal development, it is best for a woman to strive for healthy weight and diet, both before and during pregnancy.


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