Teen Pregnancy: Unborn Child Loses out in Competition With Mom for Nutrients
lose out in a competition for nutrients with their young — and
still growing — teen mothers, leading to future health problems
for both, a recent study reveals.
There is a
link between maternal growth, obesity and low birth-weight babies in a
large percentage of pregnancies that occur while the mother-to-be is
still growing, according to Dr. Theresa Scholl, professor of
epidemiology in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Medicine
and Dentistry of New Jersey.
results of her research on pregnant teenagers in Camden, N.J., during a
Philadelphia-based panel discussion exploring maternal and child
It is normal
for mature women — those 19 and older — to "shrink"
slightly during pregnancy as nutrients flow to the fetus, Scholl
explained. However, approximately half of teenage pregnant women grow
during the gestational period. The metabolic shift that needs to take
place to establish the proper balance of nutrients to the mother and to
the fetus fails to take place in teenagers who are still growing when
they become pregnant, she said.
negatively affects the mother and the fetus, Scholl continued. The
mother deposits and retains more fat than normal during pregnancy,
leading to abnormal weight gain, postpartum retention of weight and
the fetus, in competition with the mother for fuel, is denied
sufficient nutrition, resulting in a low birth-weight and related
health defects, she said, noting that the "metabolic demands of the
young mother take precedence over the nutrient demands for fetal
growth." When these growing teenagers attempt to restrict caloric
intake, they transmit less iron and folic acid to the fetus, adding to
the risk of low birth-weight already increased by the mother's growth,
about possibilities for preventing this phenomenon in teenage
pregnancies, Scholl suggested reducing the mother's insulin production.
Eating more frequent, small meals could be one way to achieve this
effect, she said.