Does maternal obesity affect future generations?

Rebecca Reynolds, Marius Lahti, Sohinee Bhattacharya, Jane Norman

Using data to look at links between obesity during pregnancy, and how this affects the birthweight of the daughter and the granddaughter.

This research study is now complete

We know that being born too big or too small means a higher risk of illness later in life. This includes diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and cognitive problems. Research has already shown that how heavy a baby is at birth is linked across two generations. This means that a mother's birthweight indicates what her baby's birthweight is likely to be. However, not a lot is known about how birthweights are related across three generations: from mother to granddaughter.

Looking at information as far back as 1950, we want to understand how weights at birth are linked across generations. We can then use this to look at how taking action during pregnancy to improve a mother's health might help the health of both the child and the grandchild.

We now have birthweight information about nearly 9,000 mother and child pairs, and around 1,500 mother, daughter and grandchild trios. These are taken from the Aberdeen Maternity and Neonatal Databank, which contains maternity records for all women delivering in the Aberdeen Area from 1950 to the present day.


We found that grandmother birth weight was linked to grandchild birth weight, independently of prenatal and sociodemographic factors and maternal birth weight. Generational continuity across 3 generations was found for birth weight despite sex and gestational age.

This supports the hypothesis that the origins of birth weight and later health and disease are already present in earlier generations.



Research paper

Lahti-Pulkkinen M, Bhattacharya S et al (2018) Am J Epidemiol. 2018 Intergenerational Transmission of Birth Weight Across 3 Generations. Jun 1;187(6):1165-1173. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwx340.

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This study is fully funded by Tommy's and takes place in a Tommy's centre

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