Maternal Childhood Adversity, Prepregnancy Obesity, and Gestational Weight Gain

Yamini K. Ranchod, Irene E. Headen, Lucia Catherine Petito, Julianna K. Deardorff, David H. Rehkopf, Barbara F. Abrams*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Introduction Growing evidence suggests that exposure to childhood adversity may influence obesity across the life course. High maternal weight complicates pregnancy and increases the risk of child obesity. This study examined the association between maternal childhood adversity and pregnancy-related weight in a large U.S. sample. Methods Data on 6,199 pregnancies from 2,873 women followed from 1979 to 2012 by the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 were analyzed in 2014. Associations between three adversity exposures before age 18 years (history of physical abuse, alcohol problems, or mental illness in the household) and two maternal weight outcomes (prepregnancy obesity and excessive gestational weight gain) were modeled separately using survey-adjusted log-binomial models. Results After adjusting for race/ethnicity and early-life socioeconomic factors, childhood physical abuse was associated with a 60% increase in the risk of prepregnancy obesity (adjusted risk ratio=1.6, 95% CI=1.1, 2.2). Household alcohol abuse was associated with a 30% increase in prepregnancy obesity (adjusted risk ratio=1.3, 95% CI=1.0, 1.7), as was household mental illness (adjusted risk ratio=1.3, 95% CI=0.8, 1.9), but the mental illness exposure was not significant. Physical abuse and household alcohol abuse were associated with a significant 20% increase in the risk of excessive gestational weight gain; mental illness was not. Conclusions Adversity in early life may affect maternal weight before and during pregnancy. Screening and treating women of reproductive age for childhood adversity and its negative effects could significantly reduce obesity-related health outcomes for women and their children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)463-469
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Preventive Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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