Limited information is available about the association of maternal weight gain during pregnancy and birth defects. The objective of this study was to investigate the association of maternal weight gain with neural tube defects (NTDs) and gastroschisis among offspring.
We used data from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, an ongoing multicenter, population-based, case-control study. Mothers of cases and controls were interviewed by telephone. Analyses included 255 anencephaly, 577 spina bifida, 648 gastroschisis cases, and 5587 controls with deliveries from 1999 to 2005. After subtracting birth weight, the associations of total and average weekly weight gain (kg) with each phenotype were estimated, stratified by gestational age (<37 vs. ≥37 weeks) and adjusted for relevant covariates.
Among deliveries <37 weeks gestation, mothers of infants with anencephaly and spina bifida had lower weight gains compared to control mothers; no association between weight gains and gastroschisis was observed. Among deliveries ≥37 weeks, mothers of infants with anencephaly had lower weight gains during pregnancy; a similar association was not observed for spina bifida; mothers of infants with gastroschisis were twice as likely to have weight gains in the highest quartile. Stratification by maternal age (gastroschisis) or body mass index (BMI) or race/ethnicity (all phenotypes) did not alter odds ratio estimates.
Altered weight gain during pregnancy may be a consequence of carrying an NTD/gastroschisis affected fetus or a marker for underlying factors common to the etiology of these birth defects. It is possible that whatever mechanisms influence weight gain may also influence the development of NTDs and gastroschisis, but in opposite directions.