Mother's Obesity May Cause Early Puberty In Daughters

Precocious Puberty or early puberty has become quite common these days and we find young girls reaching menarche before the age of 10. Myriad causes are responsible for this and we have already discussed some of it in the post "Air pollution possibly delays menarche - A surprising result of a study." In a large study involving involving 50,000 postmenopausal women in the UK, Australia, Japan and Scandinavia, it was found that women were 31 percent more likely to go through menopause early - between the ages of 40-44 if they started menstruating before their 12th birthday.

obese pregnant woman

Furthermore, not having children was also related to earlier menopause age. Women without children who had their first period before 12 were five times more likely to reach menopause prematurely than women with two or more children, who started menstruating at 12 or older. Often women who went through early puberty had difficulty in getting pregnant.  This suggests there is a link between early menstruation, infertility and premature menopause. With girls getting their periods at young age,  there would be an increase in fertility problems and premature menopause rates in the coming decades, say the researchers.

So getting periods at an early age is worrisome as it is linked to a host of health issues in later life.

Interestingly, a study has also found that mother's weight during her pregnancy has an influence on her daughter's age of entering puberty. Mothers who were overweight or obese during pregnancy were more likely to have daughters go through early puberty than pregnant women who are a normal weight.

Excerpts from the study:

Compared to daughters whose mothers were a normal weight during pregnancy, girls whose mothers were obese were 39 percent more likely to develop breasts early, the study found - typically, seven months sooner.

“It has been known that obesity during pregnancy or excess gestational weight gain can lead to complications of pregnancy as well as (negative) birth outcomes and childhood obesity,” said lead study author Dr. Ali Kubo of the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research in Oakland. “Our study extends the previous knowledge showing that obesity and (high blood sugar) may also influence pubertal timing.”

The results underscore a need for women . . . to focus on healthy habits and achieving a healthy weight before they consider a pregnancy, said Dr. Amos Grunebaum, a researcher at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City who wasn’t involved in the study.

“Obesity changes the whole body and is part of the `metabolic syndrome,’ a cluster of conditions that occur together, and also increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. With obesity, a woman’s hormones are abnormal, and . . . as this study shows it can affect the developing fetus with long term consequences.”

Additionally research also suggests that overweight mothers are programming babies in utero to be overweight themselves and to have long-term problems with obesity and childhood diabetes.  Besides, a woman who is overweight or obese has an increased risk of  pregnancy and birth related complications, including increased risk of high blood pressure (preeclampsia) and gestational diabetes. Also there is an increased chance of miscarriage, stillbirth, and birth defects such as spina bifida. So, in the interests of her yet-to-be born daughter / son, a woman who's planning to get pregnant should maintain an ideal body weight and lead a healthy, salubrious lifestyle.

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  1. obesity during pregnancy or excess gestational weight gain can lead to complications of pregnancy as well as (negative) birth outcomes and childhood obesity

  2. Daughters of obese mothers or mothers with high blood sugar were more likely to show early breast development. High maternal BMI similarly shifted the timing of pubic hair growth among white, Hispanic and Asian girls


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