Prepregnancy obesity is associated with cognitive outcomes in boys in a low-income, multiethnic birth cohort

Widen, Elizabeth M.; Nichols, Amy R.; Kahn, Linda G.; Factor-Litvak, Pam; Insel, Beverly J.; Hoepner, Lori; Dube, Sara M.; Rauh, Virginia; Perera, Frederica; Rundle, Andrew

Maternal obesity and high gestational weight gain (GWG) disproportionally affect low-income populations and may be associated with child neurodevelopment in a sex-specific manner. We examined sex-specific associations between prepregnancy BMI, GWG, and child neurodevelopment at age 7.

Data are from a prospective low-income cohort of African American and Dominican women (n = 368; 44.8% male offspring) enrolled during the second half of pregnancy from 1998 to 2006. Neurodevelopment was measured using the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-IV) at approximately child age 7. Linear regression estimated associations between prepregnancy BMI, GWG, and child outcomes, adjusting for race/ethnicity, marital status, gestational age at delivery, maternal education, maternal IQ and child age.

Overweight affected 23.9% of mothers and obesity affected 22.6%. At age 7, full-scale IQ was higher among girls (99.7 ± 11.6) compared to boys (96.9 ± 13.3). Among boys, but not girls, prepregnancy overweight and obesity were associated with lower full-scale IQ scores [overweight β: − 7.1, 95% CI: (− 12.1, − 2.0); obesity β: − 5.7, 95% CI: (− 10.7, − 0.7)]. GWG was not associated with full-scale IQ in either sex.

Prepregnancy overweight and obesity were associated with lower IQ among boys, but not girls, at 7 years. These findings are important considering overweight and obesity prevalence and the long-term implications of early cognitive development.

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December 20, 2022


Body mass index, Cognition, Pregnancy, Child, Overweight, Obesity, Prospective studies, Wechsler scales