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Obesity risk is higher for poorer mums

IRISH women in the lowest income group are 42pc more likely to be obese after having a baby than wealthier new mums.

New research shows that while the risk of obesity falls slightly for more affluent women when more children arrive, it tends to rise for women in the three lowest income groups.

It showed that there was a gradual increase in the risk of obesity with the number of children that a woman has given birth to, even when other factors are taken into account.

Almost 16pc of women were measured as being obese nine months after the birth of their first child.

This risk rose by 7pc after the birth of their second child.

By the third child, the risk had risen by 30pc and for the fourth or subsequent child, by 63pc.

The researchers found that women who are "socio-economically disadvantaged are 42pc more likely than those in the highest income group to be obese following childbirth."

More than 10,000 women living in Ireland took part in the study which was published recently in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.



Led by Professor Michael Turner, UCD Centre for Human Reproduction based at the Coombe, and Professor Richard Layte, economic sociologist at the Economic Social and Research Institute (ESRI), the results found that obesity following childbirth is associated with "lower household income, smoking, lower breastfeeding duration and earlier completion of full-time education."

Professor Layte told the Herald: "We know that salty, fatty, sugary foods are cheaper than they have ever been and more available. It could be that some people go for the convenience of processed foods."

He said that pregnancy can be a turning point in lifetime health risks and the research shows that such risks are more concentrated among lower income women. Further studies should investigate why this pattern occurs and what interventions may prevent it.

The study focused on a wide ranging sample of 10,524 mothers – it's equivalent to approximately one sixth of the total number of deliveries in Ireland every year.

The mean age of the women who gave birth was 31.

The researchers recommended that: "Public health interventions that are aimed at decreasing obesity levels after childbirth should prioritise women who are disadvantaged socio-economically."