Results of a retrospective study published in the Journal of American Medical Association show that children of mothers who were overweight or obese during pregnancy have a higher risk of developing epilepsy.


Epilepsy is a syndrome characterized by recurrent and unprovoked seizures. Although it is one of the common neurological disorders encountered by clinicians, the exact cause and pathophysiology underlying this syndrome are still poorly understood. There are several factors which are proven to increase the risk of developing this syndrome, such as preterm birth, low birth weight, genetic abnormalities, and low APGAR scores at birth. However, the association between high body mass index during pregnancy and subsequent development of epilepsy among their offspring remains to be unknown.

In a recent article published in the Journal of American Medical Association, a group of researchers did a retrospective study in an attempt to determine whether an increased body mass index (BMI) in pregnancy would increase the risk of developing epilepsy in newborns. Medical records from 1,441,623 live, single births delivered in Sweden at 22nd week of gestation and beyond were reviewed. Both maternal and infant data were gathered for this study. Neonatal birth weight, sex, gestational age, birth trauma and presence of other conditions or congenital malformations were included in the infant characteristics. Maternal data reviewed included BMI during pregnancy, age at delivery, country of origin, year of delivery, educational status, smoking during pregnancy, and prior diagnosis of epilepsy. Records with missing information such as maternal BMI and patient registration numbers were excluded in the study. Children who died before the age of 28 days were also excluded. In the end, a total of 1,421, 551 births were included in the statistical analysis.

The results show that being obese or overweight during pregnancy is associated with the development of epilepsy in the newborn, with greater risks related to higher body mass index. Measures designed to prevent this modifiable risk factor can subsequently lead to a decrease in the incidence of childhood epilepsy.


Written By: Karla Sevilla

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