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Is being overweight in pregnancy associated with the development of cerebral palsy?

A new study published in JAMA has found increased rates of cerebral palsy in children whose mothers are overweight or obese. The study was conducted in Sweden and analysed data from 1,423,929 children born between 1997 and 2012. In total, 3,029 children were diagnosed with cerebral palsy during this time, and it was found that increasing BMI was associated with an increased reporting of cerebral palsy. It is estimated that 45% of these cases was due to asphyxia-related complications.

Maternal overweight can increase the risk of asphyxia-related neonatal complications, preterm delivery, and congenital malformations, all of which are in turn associated with an increased risk of cerebral palsy. The authors want to highlight that whilst the effect of maternal obesity on cerebral palsy might be small when compared to other risk factors, the associated risk is relevant to public health due to the large number of women who are overweight and obese.

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