The Epidemiology and Mechanisms of Lifetime Cardiopulmonary Morbidities Associated With Pre-Pregnancy Obesity and Excessive Gestational Weight Gain

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Frontiers in cardiovascular medicine






cardiac outcomes; gestational weight gain (GWG); obesity; pregnancy; pulmonary outcomes


Obesity has reached pandemic proportions in the last few decades. The global increase in obesity has contributed to an increase in the number of pregnant women with pre-pregnancy obesity or with excessive gestational weight gain. Obesity during pregnancy is associated with higher incidence of maternal co-morbidities such as gestational diabetes and hypertension. Both obesity during pregnancy and its associated complications are not only associated with immediate adverse outcomes for the mother and their newborns during the perinatal period but, more importantly, are linked with long-term morbidities in the offsprings. Neonates born to women with obesity are at higher risk for cardiac complications including cardiac malformations, and non-structural cardiac issues such as changes in the microvasculature, e.g., elevated systolic blood pressure, and overt systemic hypertension. Pulmonary diseases associated with maternal obesity include respiratory distress syndrome, asthma during childhood and adolescence, and adulthood diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Sequelae of short-term complications compound long-term outcomes such as long-term obesity, hypertension later in life, and metabolic complications including insulin resistance and dyslipidemia. Multiple mechanisms have been proposed to explain these adverse outcomes and are related to the emerging knowledge of pathophysiology of obesity in adults. The best investigated ones include the role of obesity-mediated metabolic alterations and systemic inflammation. There is emerging evidence linking metabolic and immune derangements to altered biome, and alteration in epigenetics as one of the intermediary mechanisms underlying the adverse outcomes. These are initiated as part of fetal adaptation to obesity during pregnancy which are compounded by rapid weight gain during infancy and early childhood, a known complication of obesity during pregnancy. This newer evidence points toward the role of specific nutrients and changes in biome that may potentially modify the adverse outcomes observed in the offsprings of women with obesity.