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Breaking News: Babies of Obese Dads at Risk of Developmental Delays

Blog Breaking News: Babies of Obese Dads at Risk of Developmental Delays

There is new research that shows it’s not just the mother’s weight that may put babies at risk for development delays, but also the father’s.


For years doctors have warned about the dangers of maternal obesity during pregnancy. Women hoping to get pregnant are counseled to lose extra weight and be in the best shape possible prior to conception. The responsibility to create a healthy baby has always lied squarely on the shoulders of the mother. But now there is new research that shows it’s not just the mother’s weight that may put babies at risk for development delays, but also the father’s.

Scientists from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development researched links between parental obesity and early childhood development in children up to three years of age. Few studies review the father’s health so they wanted to discover if there was a correlation between both maternal and paternal obesity and developmental delays. Their conclusion? Yes.

Children of obese mothers demonstrated increased difficulty with fine motor skills (coordinating small muscle movements), while children of obese fathers were less adept at personal-social skills (caring for themselves and interactions with others). For children who had two obese parents, they presented additional deficits in the problem-solving domain.

According to Dr. Michael McKenna, a pediatrician at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health, this is the first study to conclude that a father’s obesity can also lead to developmental delays.

“It’s important to recognize that it’s not just moms that need to pay attention to their weight, it’s dads too,” he says. “This study refers to other studies that have considered things like poor sperm formation. This is a direct correlation to high blood sugar – it’s more damaging than we realize. Sugars are not just sitting in your blood and hanging out; they are attaching to blood, muscle and sperm cells. That can cause problems when testicles make sperm. We don’t know what change the extra sugars may make, but there’s concern that the basic genetic material of this sperm can affect the neurological development and general formation of a fetus.”

Since sperm are created throughout a man’s life, research has begun to discover that they could easily be affected by a man’s health. If he is overweight, insulin sensitive or suffers from other conditions, it could potentially cause the creation of sperm that are genetically inferior to sperm from a healthy male.

The takeaway from this study, according to Dr. McKenna, is that developing a healthy lifestyle, weight and BMI are important factors to consider for both people before a couple begins to try and conceive a child.

“If you are thinking about having a baby, think about how you can be as healthy as you can, and make the best choices that you can,” advises Dr. McKenna. “This is important for multiple reasons. First, for your own health – you want to be around as long as you can for the sweet little baby that you will have in the future. Second, to make sure that your future child is going to have the best chance that they can to develop and be born as healthy as possible. And third, having a healthy lifestyle before you have a baby is easier to continue when you have a baby. Plus, it teaches the child to make good, healthy choices when it comes to eating and exercise. This lifestyle will set them up to be as healthy as they can possibly be going forward, which can lead to better development, success and health throughout their life.”

-- By Gia Miller

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