Children exposed to antibiotics during second or third trimester of pregnancy are then more likely to be obese at the age of seven years, warns a study by researchers at Columbia University.
Previously published studies had already shown a link between the use of antibiotics in infancy and risk of obesity later. This is the first time that such a link is identified in relation to an antibiotic exposure before birth.
Antibiotics affect microbial flora of the mother and fetus to potentially make. Researchers are just beginning to understand that the normal intestinal flora plays an important role in health, and an imbalance can cause a multitude of problems.
727 mothers who participated in the study, 436 were followed until their child turns seven. The mothers of 16% of these children had taken antibiotics during the second or third trimester of pregnancy. The risk of these children suffer from obesity was 84% higher than the risk of children who have not been exposed to antibiotics.
The researchers also discovered during the same study, a cesarean birth swelled by 46% the risk of obesity in childhood, unrelated to the use or not of antibiotics. Cesarean birth also reduces the normal transmission of microbial flora from the mother to the child.
Antibiotics affect microbes in the mother and can enter the fetal circulation via the placenta. Research shows over the studies that intestinal bacteria (or gut microbiota) play a key role in maintaining health and that an imbalance of these bacterial populations can cause a variety of diseases. The transmission of these bacterial populations or bacterial imbalances mother to child could explain this risk of obesity.
Results that motivate further studies because if these data are confirmed, the recommendations of antibiotic prescription during pregnancy should be reviewed. However, in the meantime, the use of antibiotics when they are medically necessary, should not be called into question, the authors conclude.