A new study by a team of researchers at the University of South Australia finds that babies born to mothers who are overweight, obese or diabetic during pregnancy have an increased risk of lungs problems. According to reports, the researchers who conducted the new study found that babies who are born to mothers that are suffered from the mentioned health conditions during pregnancy will likely have lung problems.
According to a recent report by Science Daily, previous studies conducted on the topic found that women who are overweight, diabetic, or obese during the course of pregnancy have an increased risk of giving birth to babies that are likely to suffer lung problems both at birth and in the future (during infancy and childhood).
The report also states that the researchers found that this is mostly because babies born to women who experience these conditions during pregnancy have a high risk of being born with immature lungs compared to babies born to women who have normal weight. It is reported by Eurekalert that the lungs are known to produce a substance commonly referred to as a surfactant.
This substance serves two major purposes which are fighting bacteria and viruses and preventing the airway surfaces in the lungs from sticking together. The researchers noted that Immature lungs lack the capabilities to produce surfactant in the required quantity, thus inhibits the ability of the lungs to perform their normal functions.
While conducting the study, the researchers divided pregnant sheep into two distinct groups. While the first sheep group was fed a normal diet, the second group was fed with 55 percent more energy thus simulating an over-nutrition and obesity model. It is reported that the researchers fed the sheep groups with this diet in the third trimester when the most crucial stage of lung development occurs.
Furthermore, the study authors checked and tracked the development of the lungs of the lambs before birth and a month after they are born to investigate whether they were a sufficient number of cells that produce surfactant. Interestingly, they found that lambs born to mothers that were fed with the over-nutrition model had less surfactant and fewer cells producing it.
However, the study authors found that the amount of surfactant had normalized one month after birth in the offspring born to mothers fed with the over-nutrition model, thereby making the long-term effect of being overweight, obese, or diabetic on lung maturation during pregnancy unclear.
“These findings suggest it may be advisable for overweight, obese and diabetic pregnant women to be provided with treatments to help mature their babies’ lungs before they give birth. It may also be advisable for care providers to counsel overweight, obese and diabetic women to manage these states before becoming pregnant to improve the health of their unborn baby,” senior author of the study, Professor Morrison said. The researchers plan to follow up with the offspring later in their life to check if there is a higher risk of lung problems. They published their findings in The Journal of Physiology.