Obesity in pregnancy lowers one's ability to fight infections. That could in turn affect the baby's health after birth and later in life, according to research presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Denver.
"Women who are obese before pregnancy have critical differences in their immune function during pregnancy compared to normal weight women, which has negative consequences for both mother and baby," said Sarbattama Sen, MD, lead author of the study and a researcher in the Mother Infant Research Institute at Tufts Medical Center and Floating Hospital for Children in Boston.
Obesity in pregnancy has been associated with an increase in infections such as chorioamnionitis, a condition in which the membranes surrounding the fetus and the amniotic fluid are infected. This can have serious consequences for both the mother and the baby.
Results showed that obese women had fewer CD8+ (cytotoxic T) cells and natural killer cells, which help fight infection, compared to lean women. In addition, obese pregnant women's ability to produce cells to fight infection was impaired.
"Maternal obesity has consequences for the mother and baby, which we are only beginning to understand," Dr. Sen concluded. "As the numbers of obese women of reproductive age increase, it is critical to understand the repercussions of this disease for future generations."