Background: Obesity is a major public health problem among women of reproductive age. In a narrative review, we examined the influence of maternal obesity during pregnancy on fetal outcomes and childhood adiposity, cardio-metabolic, respiratory and cognitive-related health outcomes. We discuss results from recent studies, the causality and potential underlying mechanisms of observed associations and challenges for future epidemiological studies. Summary: Evidence from observational studies strongly suggests that maternal pre-pregnancy obesity and excessive gestational weight gain are associated with increased risks of fetal pregnancy complications and adverse childhood cardio-metabolic, respiratory and cognitive-related health outcomes. It remains unclear whether these associations are due to intrauterine mechanisms or explained by confounding family-based sociodemographic, lifestyle and genetic factors. The underlying mechanisms have mainly been assessed in animal studies and small human studies, and are yet to be further explored in large human studies. Key Message: Maternal obesity is an important modifiable factor during pregnancy that is associated with a variety of adverse offspring health outcomes. Further studies are needed to explore the causality and underlying mechanisms of the observed associations. Ultimately, preventive strategies focused on reducing maternal obesity and excessive weight gain during pregnancy may reduce common diseases in future generations.

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Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism
Department of Pediatrics

Gaillard, R., Santos, S., Duijts, L., & Felix, J. (2016). Childhood Health Consequences of Maternal Obesity during Pregnancy: A Narrative Review. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 171–180. doi:10.1159/000453077