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The University of Southampton

Pregnancy and obesity: New study aims to improve the health of clinically obese women and their babies

Published: 6 March 2009

Scientists from the University of Southampton are taking part in a new study to improve the health of pregnant women who are clinically obese and that of their babies.

The research team, which is led by King’s College London, has been awarded a £1.2 million programme grant from the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) to develop a diet and exercise-based programme targeted to individual women. Obesity increases the risk of many pregnancy complications for the mother and infant, and may increase the risk of obesity and diabetes for the child in later life.

Professors Keith Godfrey, Cyrus Cooper and Dr Sian Robinson from the University’s School of Medicine are part of a multidisciplinary team from King’s College London, University College London, Newcastle, Manchester, and Glasgow Universities.

The study known as UPBEAT (UK Pregnancies Better Eating and Activity Trial) started this week. This coincided with the publication in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology of a study undertaken by the King’s team, which emphasises the risks of obesity in pregnancy, particularly in first-time mothers.

Professor Keith Godfrey comments: “Work in Southampton has demonstrated that a child’s risk of developing later obesity, diabetes and heart disease is in part determined by the mother’s nutrition during pregnancy. Using the experience that has come from our studies assessing the diet and body fatness of mothers and their infants, this important new study will examine if helping obese mothers to change to their diet and physical activity during pregnancy can improve the lifelong health of their children.”

Professor Lucilla Poston from King’s College London adds: “Obesity in pregnant women has become one of the most demanding challenges in obstetrics. We have brought together a highly experienced team of health professionals to tackle this problem. Working together, this group will develop a safe intervention for pregnant obese women to reduce the risks for mother and child, and which can be readily translated into clinical practice.”

Notes for editors

The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship across a wide range of subjects in engineering, science, social sciences, health and humanities.

With over 22,000 students, around 5000 staff, and an annual turnover of more than £370 million, the University of Southampton is acknowledged as one of the country's top institutions for engineering, computer science and medicine. We combine academic excellence with an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to research, supporting a culture that engages and challenges students and staff in their pursuit of learning.

The University is also home to a number of world-leading research centres, including the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, the Optoelectronics Research Centre, the Web Science Research Initiative, the Centre for the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, the Mountbatten Centre for International Studies and the Southampton Statistical Sciences Research Institute.

For further information contact:
Sarah Watts or Glenn Harris, Communications, University of Southampton
023 8059 3807/3212;,

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