OBJECTIVES: Maternal pre-pregnancy weight is known to affect foetal development. However, it has not yet been clarified if gestational weight gain is associated with childhood behavioural development.
METHODS: We performed a pooled analysis of two prospective birth cohorts to investigate the association between gestational weight gain and childhood problem behaviours, and the effect modification of maternal pre-pregnancy BMI. In total, 378 mother-child pairs from the Maastricht Essential Fatty Acids Birth cohort (MEFAB) and 414 pairs from the Rhea Mother-Child cohort were followed up from early pregnancy to 6-7 years post-partum. At follow up, parents assessed their children's behaviour, measured as total problems, internalizing and externalizing behaviours, with the Child Behaviour Checklist. We computed cohort- and subject-specific gestational weight gain trajectories using mixed-effect linear regression models. Fractional polynomial regressions, stratified by maternal pre-pregnancy BMI status, were then used to examine the association between gestational weight gain and childhood problem behaviours.
RESULTS: In the pre-pregnancy overweight/obese group, greater gestational weight gain was associated with higher problem behaviours. On average, children of women with overweight/obesity who gained 0.5 kg/week scored 25 points higher (on a 0-100 scale) in total problems and internalizing behaviours, and about 18 points higher in externalizing behaviours than children whose mothers gained 0.2 kg/week. Inconsistent results were found in the pre-pregnancy normal weight group.
CONCLUSIONS FOR PRACTICE: Excessive gestational weight gain in women with pre-pregnancy overweight/obesity might increase problem behaviours in school-age children. Particular attention should be granted to avoid excessive weight gain in women with a pre-pregnancy overweight or obesity.
- Gestational weight gain
- Pre-pregnancy BMI
- Problem behaviours