According to new research a mother's weight, and the amount she gains during pregnancy, may have an impact on her daughter's risk of obesity decades later.

This research has important implications for the future - if women can reach a healthy weight before they begin their family, it has the potential to impact two generations. This is exciting stuff!

With the growing obesity epidemic studies like these are particularly important.

Researchers, led by Alison Stuebe assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UNC Chapel Hill's School of Medicine, analyzed data from more than 24,000 mother-daughter pairs. They discovered that:

  • The heavier a mother was before her pregnancy, the more likely her daughter was to be obese in later life.
  • For example, a mother who weighed 150 pounds before pregnancy was twice as likely to have a daughter who was obese at age 18, in comparison to a mother who weighed 125 pounds before getting pregnant.
  • Mothers who gained 15 to 19 pounds during pregnancy had the lowest risk of their daughters being obese in later life. In comparison, mothers who gained more than 40 pounds while pregnant were almost twice as likely to have daughters who were obese at age 18, and later in life.
  • Too little weight gain was also linked with a daughter's obesity risk. Pregnancy weight gain of less than 10 pounds was associated with a 1.5-fold increase in the odds of being obese at 18, and a 1.3-fold increase in odds of being obese in later life.

So, what does this mean for women?

Well, it appears important that women aim for a healthy weight before they become pregnant (obviously this isn't always possible), and throughout pregnancy they should try to gain a moderate amount of weight.

We know that throughout pregnancy additional calories are required, however the old mantra of eating for two is very deceiving!

So, how much should pregnant women be eating?

Calorie requirements during pregnancy are dependent on physical activity and pre-pregnancy weight. Here are a few guidelines:

  • In the UK, we recommend a 100-calorie increase per day for the first six months, and 200-calorie per day increase for the last three months
  • This recommendation assumes that during pregnancy activity levels fall and you become a little more sedentary. However this is not always the case.
  • In the US, an extra 300-calories per day are encouraged in the final six months.
  • Please remember, these are merely guidelines; I believe women should learn to listen their own bodies first and foremost.

I'm sure you'll agree the recommended increase in calorie intake is pretty low in comparison to what many women eat during pregnancy.

Interestingly, another study by Alison Stuebe, found that women who eat anextra 500 calories per day during pregnancy increase their risk of gaining too much weight by 10 percent.

Gaining too much weight is linked with complications at birth, such as pre-eclampsia, and the need for a C-section.