Reasons To Resent Your Grandmother: Her Pregnancy Nutrition Is Linked To Your Baby’s Birth Weight


Apparently, what your grandmother ate while she was pregnant with your mother could have affected your birth weight. And what your mother ate while she was pregnant with you could affect your own children. And what you ate when you were a kid can also affect your own babies, maybe even more than what you eat while you are actually pregnant.

According to a study that involved over 3,000 women in the Philippines, “a mother’s nutrition while she was in the womb herself and during her infancy may play a greater role in the birth weight of her babies than what she eats as an adult or during pregnancy.”

Wow. And kinda…WTF. Dr. Christopher Kuzawa of Northwestern University presented the findings to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, saying:

“Our findings add to the growing evidence that a baby’s birthweight is linked to the nutrition that her mother experienced as an infant or young child. [There is] quite a bit of converging evidence that the quantity of calories you consume during pregnancy does not have a big effect on the baby. It is more about pre-pregnancy nutrition and nutrition during early development. The mother’s infancy nutrition and the grandmother’s pregnancy nutrition both predicted birth weight in offspring of the mothers.”

Kuzawa added:

“The fetus’s experiences during those nine months are akin to ‘memories’ of the mother’s past nutrition and health, rather than cues of what she is eating during pregnancy.”

The study also placed a high importance on the mother’s own diet during her infancy and childhood. So basically, the food you ate when you were a child might have a greater affect on your fetus than the food you eat while you’re actually gestating that fetus. Crazy, right?

While there’s nothing you can do now about what your grandmother or mother ate (or what you ate as a child), I kind of see that as a good thing, at least in relation to our society’s hyper vigilance towards pregnant women. I’m not saying go ahead and eat like a pig while you’re pregnant, but knowing that just maybe not all of the responsibility for growing a healthy human is directly correlated to what you put into your body might help diffuse some of the guilt that women feel if they don’t have the most perfect pregnancy ever.

Kuzawa also said that the findings were preliminary, using a sample of mothers around the age of 21 who self-reported on their own birth weights and dietary intake. So, this new information isn’t necessarily set in stone and it’s certainly not a free rein to go crazy on junk food and bisphenol while you’re pregnant. But if it provides a clearer picture of the apparently myriad factors that contribute to babies’ birth weights—and helps us learn that individual women are not necessarily terrible, neglectful, selfish mothers if they have a low birth weight baby—I think that’s a good thing.

Photo: Shutterstock

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  • Guest

    Welp, I guess I’ll just eat whatever then when I get knocked up. That takes a load off my back.

    • Lackadaisical

      Yes, but your own children will get to moan about it if it causes your grandchildren to be huge. Personally I am always cynical of these studies as they always contradict each other and what is considered best changes with the wind (and business sponsoring study of the month)

    • Guest

      I’ll probably be dead and gone before that ever happens…what with all the bon bons and Mcdonalds…

    • Lackadaisical

      If the alternative is a long life of worthy food then I choose a large coffin too

  • Crusty Socks

    I would like to see a study on how accurate these studies are…

  • amanda

    Yes, this explains why medications you take during pregnancy have tetrogenic effects… Or why folic acid increase during first trimester decreases risk of spina bifida. And why my lushy friends child was NOT born with fas …. Studies kill me.

  • Jillian

    So basically the point of these types of studies is to point out how women are to blame for the majority of physical stuff that happens to their kids. Now not even your own grandmother or mother is safe from blame any more because there all to blame for your eating habits and birth weights. Women:we just can’t ever win and then society wonders why women are so critical of themselves and blame themselves when any kind of illness befalls their children.

  • zeisel

    this is hocus pocus… i can’t believe i got suckered into reading this article.

  • Kelly

    Great, another reason to make people with shitty families feel like shit. We so don’t have enough of those.

    If what my grandma and mom did really had a significant impact on my life, I’d probably just shoot myself because there’d be no hope for me. Fortunately, that’s a bunch of bullshit and it’s not worth worrying about. Even if I did worry about it, I can’t do a fucking thing about it anyways.

  • jendra_berri

    My mom allegedly ate a lot of brownies while pregnant with me. So this affects my son? And I ate ice cream while pregnant.
    Actually, hang on… this would only matter if you have a girl, right? A boy fetus’ nutrition would have no impact on whatever babies he sires as this health issue seems matrilineal. So, my take on this is definitely find out what you’re having and then eat or don’t eat many brownies accordingly. Ha!

    • ChickenKira

      But brownies and ice cream combined make a complete dessert! You and your mother did well.

      My mother had beetroot with me and I had caramel milkshakes. What the hell kind of awful combination is that? My poor daughter.

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