Childhood obesity tied to hypertension in late pregnancy

This morning I couldn’t escape the news – Hypertension in late pregnancy increases the odds that the baby will suffer from childhood obesity.

I reflected on my second pregnancy when I did have extremely high blood pressure as I neared my due date. I was made to lie on my left side to have my blood pressure taken. It was in the  hopes that it would effectively lower it, as least a little.

My due date was December 9. By Halloween my OB was starting to get concerned about my blood pressure that was higher with each prenatal visit.

It was getting so high, that my OB/GYN, none other than the celebrated Dr. Christiane Northrup got concerned and decided to induce me on my due date rather than to wait to let nature decide when to deliver my child.

The delivery was attended by Dr. Zerner because Dr. Northrup was out of town beginning her meteoric rise to fame as an authority on holistic medicine. The pitocin drip was started and the contractions kicked right into brutal but not a lot was happening as far as my cervix was  concerned.

Then Dr. Zerner broke my water to speed things up and things got tense. The heartbeat was gone on the external monitor and they were gearing up for an emergency delivery. Dr Zerner inserted an internal fetal monitor and was surprised to find the baby had moved all the way through the birth canal in one quick plunge. Her heart was beating good and strong and I was told it was time to push.

According to new research this baby had a 49% higher risk of growing into an obese child because of her mother’s elevated blood pressure towards the end of her pregnancy. Good thing her mother didn’t know that because it could have been influenced how she was treated and fed. It could have resulted in the very thing I would be trying to avoid.

She was a big one. 9 lbs, 3 oz.

She started out in the 99th percentile on the growth chart. That technically made her an obese baby. Now the news is saying that she had almost a 50% chance of becoming an obese child. I would not want to be looking at my newborn baby worrying about her becoming an obese child, but if she were a newborn baby today, I know I would.

I would want to try to avoid letting her get fat and that might be exactly the thing that propelled her weight into childhood obesity statistics. Since I was ignorant of this study that would be announced in the news 33 years later, I just fed her on demand without any worry about her gaining too much weight.

By the time she was a year old, she was still in the 99th percentile for height, but in the 10th percentile for weight. She didn’t even reach 20 pounds in her first year. Not that it matters, but she was breastfed and introduced to rice cereal around 4 months. She didn’t get too interested in solid food until 7 months when she grabbed my pizza out of my hand and started to gum it. Later her father fed her baked beans and sardines when I went out. Let’s just say her Pampers weren’t up for the job.

She pretty much went through childhood as a tall, skinny kid.

She went through adolescence and early adulthood tall and skinny too. Now as a mother of 2 those are the adjectives that still describe her.


She grew up eating fast food, pizza, cupcakes, ice cream, candy, and plenty of doughnuts. Her favorite dinner was Kraft mac and cheese. She also ate a lot of whole grains, a lot of fruit, a lot of vegetables, and drank skim milk. She ate meat, and especially loved hot dogs, until she became a vegetarian because she decided eating animals was cruel in her early 20s.

She played outside a lot. She spent all summer at the beach swimming and exploring. She took dance lessons starting in kindergarten and by middle school progressed to competitive dance teams. She also watched TV when she wanted without my strict monitoring of screen time.

Performing with the Dance Studio of Maine at a festival at Thomas Point Beach in Brunswick, ME.

I’m sharing this story because I think that more harm than good can come from worrying that you may raise an obese child because you had hypertension late in pregnancy.

The only time in her life when she wasn’t at the bottom of the healthy weight range for her height. Yes, that’s Pharrell, the rapper, singer, songwriter with her. She and her friend were admiring the expensive Mercedes noting that Pharrell had one just like it. It turned out it was Pharrell’s Mercedes.

I want every mom who had hypertension to assume her child will be in the 51% of the babies who never have a problem with obesity. I want to encourage and support moms to use their good instincts when feeding and caring for their babies and proceed as though there is no concern that your sweet, beautiful baby will ever have any issues with childhood obesity, or adult obesity either.

Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. She is a Weight Watchers success story. She's a weight loss expert with 25 years of experience guiding women and men to their weight-related goals. Her articles on weight management have been published in health, family and women's magazines. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news, FOX network morning program Good Day Maine and 207 on WCSH.