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Prepregnancy obesity is associated with lower psychomotor development scores in boys at age 3 in a low-income, minority birth cohort

Nichols AR, Rundle AG, Factor-Litvak P, Insel BJ, Hoepner L, Rauh V, Perera F, Widen EM (2020) J Dev Orig Health Dis.  2020 Feb;11(1): 49-57. doi: 10.1017/S2040174419000412. 

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Whether maternal obesity and gestational weight gain (GWG) are associated with early-childhood development in low-income, urban, minority populations, and whether effects differ by child sex remain unknown. This study examined the impact of prepregnancy BMI and GWG on early childhood neurodevelopment in the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health Mothers and Newborns study.

Maternal prepregnancy weight was obtained by self-report, and GWG was assessed from participant medical charts. At child age 3 years, the Psychomotor Development Index (PDI) and Mental Development Index (MDI) of the Bayley Scales of Infant Intelligence were completed. Sex-stratified linear regression models assessed associations between prepregnancy BMI and pregnancy weight gain z-scores with child PDI and MDI scores, adjusting for covariates. Of 382 women, 48.2% were normal weight before pregnancy, 24.1% overweight, 23.0% obese, and 4.7% underweight.

At 3 years, mean scores on the PDI and MDI were higher among girls compared to boys (PDI: 102.3 vs. 97.2, P = 0.0002; MDI: 92.8 vs. 88.3, P = 0.0001). In covariate-adjusted models, maternal obesity was markedly associated with lower PDI scores in boys [b = -7.81, 95% CI: (-13.08, -2.55), P = 0.004], but not girls. Maternal BMI was not associated with MDI in girls or boys, and GWG was not associated with PDI or MDI among either sex (all-P > 0.05).

We found that prepregnancy obesity was associated with lower PDI scores at 3 years in boys, but not girls. The mechanisms underlying this sex-specific association remain unclear, but due to elevated obesity exposure in urban populations, further investigation is warranted.