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Associations between pre-pregnancy obesity and asthma symptoms in adolescents
  1. Swatee P Patel1,2,
  2. Alina Rodriguez2,3,4,
  3. Mark P Little2,
  4. Paul Elliott2,5,
  5. Juha Pekkanen6,
  6. Anna-Liisa Hartikainen7,
  7. Anneli Pouta8,
  8. Jaana Laitinen9,10,
  9. Terttu Harju11,
  10. Dexter Canoy12,
  11. Marjo-Riitta Järvelin2,10,13
  1. 1Health Development Department, School of Health and Social Care, The University of Greenwich, London, UK
  2. 2Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College London, London, UK
  3. 3Department of Psychology, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden
  4. 4MRC Social Genetic Developmental Psychiatry Centre (SGDP), Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, London, UK
  5. 5MRC‐HPA Centre for Environment and Health, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College London, London, UK
  6. 6Environmental Epidemiology Unit, National Public Health Institute, Kuopio, Finland
  7. 7Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University Hospital of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
  8. 8Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, National Public Health Institute, Oulu, Finland
  9. 9Oulu Regional Institute of Occupational Health, Oulu, Finland
  10. 10Institute of Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
  11. 11Department of Internal Medicine, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
  12. 12School of Community‐Based Medicine, The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
  13. 13Biocenter Oulu, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
  1. Correspondence to Professor Marjo-Riitta Järvelin, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Imperial College London, Norfolk Place, London W2 1PG, UK; m.jarvelin{at}


Background The high prevalence of children's asthma symptoms, worldwide, is unexplained. We examined the relation between maternal pre-pregnancy weight and body mass index (BMI), and asthma symptoms in adolescents.

Methods Data from 6945 adolescents born within the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1986 were used. Prospective antenatal and birth outcome data, including maternal pre-pregnancy weight and BMI, and asthma symptoms in adolescent offspring at age 15–16 years, were employed. Logistic regression analyses were performed to examine the associations between relevant prenatal factors and asthma symptoms during adolescence.

Results Current wheeze (within the past year) was reported by 10.6% of adolescents, and physician-diagnosed asthma by 6.0%. High maternal pre-pregnancy BMI was a significant predictor of wheeze in the adolescents (increase per kilogram per square metre unit; 2.7%, 95% CI 0.9 to 4.4 for ever wheeze; 3.5%, 95% CI 1.3 to 5.8 for current wheeze), and adjusting for potential confounders further increased the risk (2.8%, 95% CI 0.5 to 5.1; 4.7%, 95% CI 1.9 to 7.7, respectively). High maternal pre-pregnancy weight, in the top tertile, also significantly increased the odds of current wheeze in the adolescent by 20% (95% CI 4 to 39), and adjusting for potential confounders further increased the risk (OR=1.52, 95% CI 1.19 to 1.95). Results were similar for current asthma. Furthermore, these significant associations were observed only among adolescents without parental history of atopy but not among those with parental history of atopy.

Conclusions The association demonstrated here between maternal pre-pregnancy overweight and obesity, and asthma symptoms in adolescents suggests that increase in asthma may be partly related to the rapid rise in obesity in recent years.

  • Asthma
  • wheeze
  • prevalence
  • adolescent
  • maternal pre-pregnancy weight
  • BMI
  • obesity

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  • SPP and AR contributed equally to this work.

  • Funding The study was supported by the grants from the University of Oulu, Finland; Oulu University Hospital, Finland; the Academy of Finland; the European Commission (Framework 5 award QLG1-CT-2000-01643), and by Medical Research Council, UK. Dr Rodriguez received support from VINNMER (P32925-1).

  • Competing interest None declared.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the ethics committee of Northern Ostrobotnia Hospital District.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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