Antibiotic Use in Second, Third Trimester Linked to Childhood Obesity Risk: Study

According to the findings of a new study, using antibiotics late into pregnancy could increase the risks of having a child that later suffers from childhood obesity. 

Researchers from Columbia University released a study this month warning that indicates children exposed to antibiotics during the second and third trimesters may face a significantly increased risk of suffering childhood obesity as early as the age of seven. The findings were published on November 11 in the International Journal of Obesity.

The study looked at data on 727 mothers enrolled in the Northern Manhattan Mothers and Children Study, and evaluated data on 436 mother-child pairs from birth to the 7-years old.

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Researchers found that children exposed to antibiotics in the womb during the second and third trimester were 84% more likely to suffer childhood obesity than those not exposed to the drugs. They also found that children born via Caesarian section also faced a 46% higher risk of childhood obesity.

“Further research is needed on how mode of delivery, antibiotic use during pregnancy and other factors influence the establishment of the ecosystem of bacteria that inhabit each of us,” said Dr. Andrew Rundle, DrPH, associate professor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health in a press release. “This research will help us understand how to create an early platform to support the healthy growth and development of children.”

The studies come amid ongoing debates over the importance of natural bacteria in prenatal and neonatal development. In both the case of antibiotic exposure and Caesarian section, some health experts argue that important natural bacteria in the child’s gut or that it would be exposed to while passing through the vagina play a vital role in development of immunities, digestion and other health issues.

“Our findings on prenatal antibiotics and risk for offspring obesity are novel, and thus warrant replication in other prospective cohort studies,” Noel Mueller, PhD, postdoctoral research fellow at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and Institute of Human Nutrition, said in the¬†press release. “If these findings hold up, they suggest new mechanisms through which childhood growth trajectories are influenced at the earliest stages of development. Our findings should not discourage antibiotic use when they are medically needed, but it is important to recognize that antibiotics are currently overprescribed.”

The research comes about two years after a study was published by the medical journal Pediatrics, which linked the use of antibiotics during pregnancy to an increased risk of asthma. That study’s findings were seen as supporting the theory that antibiotics interfere with natural bacteria aiding in child development, such as the lungs.

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