Teenage Obese Pregnancy: The “Double Burden” of Age and Excessive Weight on the Mother-Offspring Pair’s Health

(Pages 1-13)
Cristiana Berti1, Zulfiqar A Bhutta2,3, Patrick Catalano4, Shirin Elahi5, Mark Hanson6, Michael B Krawinkel7, Valeria Savasi1 and Irene Cetin1

1Department of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences, University of Milan, Milan, Italy; 2Centre for Global Child Health, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada; 3Center of Excellence in Women and Child Health, The Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan; 4Department of Reproductive Biology, Center for Reproductive Health, Case Western Reserve University at Metro Health Medical Center, Cleveland, Ohio, USA; 5Normann Partners, Stockholm and London; 6Institute of Developmental Sciences and NIHR Biomedical Research Centre, University of Southampton and University Hospital Southampton, UK; 7Institute of Nutritional Sciences – International Nutrition, Justus-Liebig-University, Giessen, Germany

DOI: https://doi.org/10.12974/2311-8687.2019.07.1


Abstract: Obesity and pregnancy are a combination that may create unique interconnected challenges for the health of the next generation. Although pregnant obese adolescents are of concern worldwide, yet it is an issue that is currently unattended to. Here, we provide an overview of the implications for the mother-offspring pair’s health associated to teenage-pregnancy, with a focus on obesity and ‘what works’ to prevent the obesity-risk during pregnancy. Interrelated health-issues are highlighted, which include: increased negative consequences related to childbearing at young age; associations of maternal pre-gravid excessive-weight with maternal and fetal complications; and limited evidence addressing obese pregnancy in adolescents. Targeting adolescents appears the most effective approach to reduce the obesity-risk trajectory of the prospective parents early-in-life, thus breaking the intergenerational cycle of non-communicable diseases. Specifically-focused educational programs with clear and motivational messages about nutrition, physical activity and sexual health, are perceived as key-components of preventive campaigns with digital web-based technology and specialized health-services being the most promising platforms to deliver knowledge. Successful education has a double advantage: to establish healthy behaviors among adolescents at an early-stage of life, thereby preventing both obesity and early pregnancy. Lastly, realistic solutions require also political understanding and commitment.

Keywords: Adolescents, Pregnancy complications, Non-communicable diseases, Dietary-lifestyle interventions, Education, Food environment, Physical activity.