Women who are obese or overweight when they become pregnant risk giving their children asthma-like respiratory symptoms during adolescence, scientists have claimed.

Looking at the experiences of 7,000 15 and 16 year-olds in Northern Finland, the researchers, from Imperial College London, found that teenagers whose mothers had been seriously obese before they became pregnant were between 20 and 30 per cent more likely to have wheeze or have (or had) asthma.

They also found that the risk of asthma increased with the mum's pre-pregnancy weight - between 2.7 per cent and 3.5 per cent for every extra kilogram of weight.

Teens whose mums were among the heaviest were 47 per cent more likely to wheeze severely.

Commenting on the results of the study, which was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, Gail Johnson, education and professional development advisor at the Royal College of Midwives, said: "The findings are interesting, although the reasons for the findings remain unclear.

"However it reinforces the message that diet and lifestyle before and during pregnancy remain important factors. It also underlines the importance of the value of information and advice from midwives and other health professionals for women. This is beneficial for the health of the woman and the long term health of her baby.

"Tackling obesity is an important health initiative, not simply something which impacts on women during pregnancy. Investment in services to ensure that support and education to reduce obesity within the population is likely to be cost effective in improving the long term health of the nation."

Posted by Robert Mair on 16.8.11 Please send your comments on this article to: penny.hosie@pavpub.com

 Child using inhaler