BACKGROUND: Maternal obesity may increase offspring risk of cardiovascular disease. We assessed the impact of maternal obesity on cardiac structure and function in newborns as a marker of fetal cardiac growth.
METHODS: Neonates born to mothers of healthy weight (body mass index (BMI) 20-25 kg/m2, n=56) and to mothers who were obese (BMI ≥30 kg/m2, n=31) underwent 25-minute continuous ECG recording and non-sedated, free-breathing cardiac MRI within 72 hours of birth.
RESULTS: Mean (SD) heart rate during sleep was higher in infants born to mothers who were versus were not obese (123 (12.6) vs 114 (9.8) beats/min, p=0.002). Heart rate variability during sleep was lower in infants born to mothers who were versus were not obese (SD of normal-to-normal R-R interval 34.6 (16.8) vs 43.9 (16.5) ms, p=0.05). Similar heart rate changes were seen during wakefulness. Left ventricular end-diastolic volume (2.35 (0.14) vs 2.54 (0.29) mL/kg, p=0.03) and stroke volume (1.50 (0.09) vs 1.60 (0.14), p=0.04) were decreased in infants born to mothers who were versus were not obese. There were no differences in left ventricular end-systolic volume, ejection fraction, output or myocardial mass between the groups.
CONCLUSION: Maternal obesity was associated with increased heart rate, decreased heart rate variability and decreased left ventricular volumes in newborns. If persistent, these changes may provide a causal mechanism for the increased cardiovascular risk in adult offspring of mothers with obesity. In turn, modifying antenatal and perinatal maternal health may have the potential to optimise long-term cardiovascular health in offspring.