February 26, 2002
New Report Links Birth Defects,
Premature Birth, To Being Overweight Before Pregnancy
'Weight Before Pregnancy Matters,' Says March
of Dimes Task Force
Birth defects, premature birth, and other severe health problems in
tomorrow's babies are linked to the soaring rates of obesity among women of
childbearing age, according to a new report released here today by the March
of Dimes Task Force on Nutrition and Optimal Human Development.
"Weight before pregnancy matters much more than people realize, even health
professionals," says Richard J. Deckelbaum, M.D., Professor of Nutrition at
Columbia University, New York, and chairman of the March of Dimes Task
Force. "For the moms, there are serious complications such as gestational
diabetes, dangerously high blood pressure, and hospitalization; and for the
babies, prematurity, serious birth defects and other severe problems. And
when these babies grow up, they are more likely to suffer from obesity,
cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other health problems. Obesity is
particularly dangerous for women of childbearing age because it creates a
life cycle of serious problems that can be passed from generation to
More than 450,000 babies are born prematurely each year in the U.S., and the
rate of premature birth has increased 23 percent since the early 1980s. Dr.
Deckelbaum cites two recent articles on the serious hazards and lifelong
consequences of prematurity that appeared in The New England Journal of
Medicine (see citations below).
Dr. Deckelbaum urges women to prepare for their future children by eating
"family-friendly" or "baby-friendly" portion sizes to reduce caloric intake,
limiting second helpings, and getting more physical exercise.
Nutrition Today Matters Tomorrow: A Report From the March of Dimes Task
Force on Nutrition and Optimal Human Development also advises new approaches
to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, unhealthy nutrition, exposure to unsafe
food and water, and poor growth and development among children in the United
States and worldwide.
"This report is a blueprint of practical answers for a healthier tomorrow
for people in the United States and around the world," says Dr. Deckelbaum.
"We hope it will inspire health providers, community leaders, and policy
makers at all levels."
The March of Dimes Task Force on Nutrition and Optimal Human Development,
created in 1999, consists of 29 nutrition scientists, administrators, and
policy makers from organizations such as the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the World Health
Organization, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.