A new study has revealed that mother's weight and the amount she gains during pregnancy both impact her daughter's risk of obesity decades later.
"The findings are especially important because of the growing epidemic of obesity in women," said Alison Stuebe, M.D., assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine.
"If we can help women reach a healthy weight before they start a family, we can make a difference for two generations," Stuebe added.
For the study, Stuebe and colleagues analyzed data on mothers' recalled weights and weight gain for more than 24,000 mother-daughter pairs.
The heavier a mother was before her pregnancy, the more likely her daughter was to be obese in later life.
For instance, an average-height mother who weighed 150 pounds before pregnancy was twice as likely to have a daughter who was obese at age 18 as a mother who weighed 125 pounds before pregnancy.
Weight gain during pregnancy mattered, too - both too little and too much weight gain increased a daughter's risk of becoming obese, especially if a mother was overweight before she got pregnant.
"Women should aim for a healthy weight before they get pregnant, and then gain a moderate amount," Stuebe said.
The study was published June 16, 2009, in the online version of the International Journal of Obesity.