Mothers’ Pre-Pregnancy Obesity Linked to Lower Test Scores in Children

Every expectant mother knows that taking care of her unborn baby means taking care of herself while she’s pregnant, but a new study suggests that the condition of a woman’s body before she gets pregnant could have a significant effect on the child’s cognitive development later down the road.

Researchers at Ohio State University published a report this week that linked obesity of women before they get pregnant to lower reading and math scores on standardized tests for their children between the ages of 5 and 7. Rika Tanda, lead author of the study, said the differences in test scores may seem small but that they’re more significant than they look. The research suggests the effects of pre-pregnancy obesity are equivalent to a seven-year decrease in the mother’s education and a lower family income, two other factors that have been known to negatively affect a child’s cognitive function.

It’s common knowledge that maintaining a healthy BMI is good for your own sake, but the implications of this new study may cause some women to take their weight even more seriously. Think of it like women who smoke when they’re not pregnant but quit as soon as there’s a baby on board – losing weight might become something mothers-to-be do “for the baby” but that ultimately benefits their own health as well. (Previous research has also suggested that pre-pregnancy obesity can have a negative effect on a fetus’s organs, including the heart, liver, and pancreas, so that’s something to keep in mind as well.)

Losing weight is not easy, but maybe this added incentive will be enough for some women to get serious about shedding those extra pounds. Sounds like a good plan to me.