Maternal pre-pregnancy obesity and gestational weight gain influence neonatal neurobehaviour

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Maternal weight before and during pregnancy is associated with offspring neurobehaviour in childhood. We investigated maternal weight prior to and during pregnancy in relation to neonatal neurobehaviour. We hypothesized that maternal obesity and excessive gestational weight gain would be associated with poor neonatal attention and affective functioning. Participants (n = 261) were recruited, weighed and interviewed during their third trimester of pregnancy. Pre-pregnancy weight was self-reported and validated for 210 participants, with robust agreement with medical chart review (r = 0.99). Neurobehaviour was measured with the NICU Network Neurobehavioural Scale (NNNS) administered on Days 2 and 32 postpartum. Maternal exclusion criteria included severe or persistent physical or mental health conditions (e.g. chronic disease or diagnoses of Bipolar Disorder or Psychotic Spectrum Disorders), excessive substance use, and social service/foster care involvement or difficulty understanding English. Infants were from singleton, full-term (37–42 weeks gestation) births with no major medical concerns. Outcome variables were summary scores on the NNNS (n = 75–86). For women obese prior to pregnancy, those gaining in excess of Institute of Medicine guidelines had infants with poorer regulation, lower arousal and higher lethargy. There were no main effects of maternal pre-pregnancy body mass index on neurobehaviour. Women gaining above Institute of Medicine recommendations had neonates with better quality of movement. Additional studies to replicate and extend results past the neonatal period are needed. Results could support underlying mechanisms explaining associations between maternal perinatal weight and offspring outcomes. These mechanisms may inform future prevention/intervention strategies. © 2016 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

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