Obese women more apt to have babies with heart defects

Thinking about having a baby? A diet might be in order first, according to new study by National Institutes of Health researchers.

Obese women are, on average, 15 percent more likely than normal-weight women to give birth to infants with congenital heart defects, the researchers found in a study published online Wednesday, April 7 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The research was based on comparing the records of mothers of 7,392 children — all with heart defects — to those of 56,304 mothers whose babies did not have any defects. They were all drawn from 1.5 million births in New York state from 1993 through 2003.

The researchers found that women who were moderately obese were 11 percent more likely to have a child with a heart defect. Morbidly obese women were 33 percent more likely to deliver children with such an abnormality.

“If a woman is obese, it makes sense for her to try to lose weight before becoming pregnant,” said James L. Mills, the study’s lead author. “Not only will weight loss improve her own health and that of her infant, it is likely to have the added benefit of reducing the infant’s risk for heart defects.”