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Teen Motherhood May Elevate Risk of Obesity by a Third

Update Date: Apr 19, 2013 01:33 PM EDT

People commonly say that young mothers' weight bounces back more quickly than the weight of older mothers after having a baby. However, a recent study has found that the mantra may not be accurate. In fact, teen mothers may be more likely to become obese after having had their baby. That means that, aside from the short-term effects of being a teenaged mother, like having difficulty finishing high school, many teen mothers also have to contend with long-term health effects.

The study examined data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The survey has been employed to examine the health and nutrition of children and adults living in the United States. Researchers found that women who had given birth between the ages of 13 and 19 years old were 32 percent more likely to develop obesity than women who became mothers at the age of 20 or later. That link remained true even when researchers controlled for factors like race, education level and socioeconomic levels. The study also found that women who became mothers as teenagers were significantly less likely to be a healthy weight than women who were older than 20 when they became mothers.

The teenage pregnancy rate has declined in the United States over a number of years, but it is still among the highest among industrialized nations. In addition, the United States is in the midst of a serious obesity epidemic. It is a particular problem for women among childbearing age; between a quarter and a third of women between the ages of 25 and 44 are considered to be obese, which can raise health risks during pregnancy. Pregnancy is also considered to be a risk for obesity.

"We need further studies to better understand the link between teen birth and obesity, so that physicians and policymakers can provide the best care to teen mothers and women who have given birth as teenagers," Tammy Chang, the study's lead author, a clinical lecturer in family medicine at University of Michigan's medical school and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar, said in a statement. "Obesity is a prevalent, expensive health problem with detrimental health consequences and it's difficult to reverse, which is why it's incredibly important to identify at risk groups early so that we can intervene."

The study was published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

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