Keeping your weight in check during pregnancy could reduce your child’s chances of going through early puberty if she’s a girl, according to a new study.
Researchers studied medical records on more than 15,000 mother and daughter pairs in northern California. They found that girls whose mothers were obese during pregnancy were almost 40 percent more likely than girls born to non-obese women to experience early puberty. These girls typically developed breasts about 7 months earlier than girls born to non-obese moms, according to the study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
Girls born to overweight but not obese women were 21 percent more likely than those born to normal weight women to develop breasts early, the researchers found.
On average, girls start puberty between the ages of 8 and 13, but some will start to develop breasts, pubic hair, or body odor before age 8. Most of the time there’s nothing seriously wrong, but if your daughter is 7 or younger and is showing any signs of puberty, it’s a good idea to let her doctor know in case she needs testing or treatment.
Lead study author, Dr Alli Kubo, told Reuters that early puberty in girls has been associated with increased risk of social and emotional problems, earlier sexual experiences, and higher risk of certain health issues later in life.
The study’s findings are observational. They don’t prove that obesity in pregnancy causes early puberty, only that the two conditions are associated. Scientists have also pointed to genetics and chemicals in the environment as possible causes of early puberty.
Maintaining a healthy weight during pregnancy is beneficial for many other reasons. It can help reduce your chances of experiencing birth complications or health problems such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.
For inspiration and guidance, check out these 10 ways to avoid gaining too much pregnancy weight.