There is nothing cuter than a chubby baby. Those precious rolls around their tiny feet and those incredibly pudgy cheeks are sometimes just too adorable to pass up.
Clinicians analyzed all births in Michigan and New Jersey from 1989 to 2003, a period in which 513,000 women gave birth to more than one million babies. Researchers then used heath records to determine how much weight the mothers had gained throughout their three trimesters.
Expectant mothers typically do consume more calories than usual since they are eating for two. Many experts believe that overeating during pregnancy, however, can actually create an abnormal uterine environment for the fetus, one that could potentially change a baby's brain permanently.
An unhealthy diet could also alter the baby's pancreas, which controls metabolism, and change one's fat tissue. A high birth weight has even been linked to certain types of cancer and asthma allergies.
"For an adult to gain an extra 10 pounds and then maybe lose it doesn't cause permanent changes in that individual's biology," Ludwig said. "But, for a fetus to gain too much weight during key [moments] may permanently alter the brain circuits that affect appetite and metabolism, fat tissues or other parts of the body that have a permanent role in body weight regulation."
During a healthy pregnancy, a woman is likely to gain anywhere between 18 to 22 pounds. But, as an expectant mother's waistline grows, so do the chances of having a big baby, or one weighing more than eight pounds and 12 ounces.
For instance, if a woman puts on 44 pounds, she's more than one and a half times likely to have a big baby. Similarly, if she adds 52 pounds to her original weight, she is more than twice as likely to have a hefty newborn.
To prevent such problems, new mothers are advised to talk to their doctors about nutrition in order to best balance pregnancy cravings and the scale.
"These are the most important nine months of life from the standpoint of development," said Dr. David Ludwig of Children's Hospital Boston. "Our cells, tissues, even brain structures are being formed and fine-tuned so that having too high blood sugar and other abnormal metabolic influences can affect that infant not just at the moment but potentially throughout life."