Teenaged mothers risk obesity as older women

April 29, 2013

Researchers have for the first time identified teenaged pregnancy as a predictor of obesity in women later in life.

Researchers have for the first time identified teenaged pregnancy as a predictor of obesity in women later in life.

A nationally representative study looked at a multiyear US cohort of women from the 2001-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey who were aged from 20 years to 59 years and who had experienced at least 1 live birth.

After controlling for factors such as race, education, and socioeconomic indicators, bivariate analyses showed that women who had first given birth between the ages of 13 years and 19 years were 32% more likely to be overweight or obese at the time of the survey than women who had given birth to their first child when aged 20 years or older. Data also showed that fewer women who had been first-time mothers as teenagers were of normal weight compared with older first-time mothers.

Teenaged pregnancy rates in the United States are among the highest in the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 365,000 adolescent girls aged from 15 to 19 years gave birth in 2010, and among them as many as 20% were repeat births. Infants born from a repeat teenaged birth often are born too small or too soon, both conditions that may lead to poor long-term health outcomes.

The researchers point out that because obesity is a major health problem, it is important to identify groups at risk early when interventions are most effective. Pregnancy itself is a risk factor for obesity, so studies that examine the association between early childbearing and later risk for overweight and obesity will allow physicians and policymakers to improve the long-term health of teenaged mothers.