Looking at blood in the umbilical cord to find the missing link between obesity in mother and child

Researchers want to look at the ways that a mother’s weight can impact on the health of her baby, by looking at samples of blood from the umbilical cord.

In the UPBEAT trial, we looked at obese women to find out about the effects of changing to a healthier diet and more active lifestyle during pregnancy. Researchers supported by Tommy’s have already found that babies of women who changed their lifestyles had less fat in their body at 6 months old than babies of women who didn’t.  

Now we know this, we want to understand more about why. This is of vital importance: around 23% of all children under 18 are overweight or obese. 15 studies have suggested that body mass index before pregnancy, weight put on during pregnancy, and diabetes are all linked to more fat and unhealthier hearts in children. This could show that obesity is “programmed” while still in the womb.

We want to find the next piece of the puzzle about how a mother’s lifestyle and diet are related to obesity in her children.  To do this, we are going to look at blood from the umbilical cords of mothers who took part in the UPBEAT trial to see if there are differences between mothers who changed their diet and lifestyle, and those who didn’t. We also want to figure out if any changes in the blood samples are related to a mother’s body size or clinical history. Finally, we will look at whether changes in the blood of the umbilical cord are linked with a child’s body measurements at birth and 6 months after. 


Professor Lucilla Poston, Dr Annette Briley, Dr Dharmintra Pasupathy, Dr Nashita Patel, Mr Paul Seed, Claire Singh MSc, the UPBEAT consortium

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This study takes place in a Tommy's centre and is funded by Tommy's, the National Institute for Health Research, Chief Scientist Office Scotland, the Medical Research Council, Guys and St Thomas' Charity, Guys and St Thomas' Biomedical Research Centre, EU EarlyNutrition, and Action Medical Research

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