OBJECTIVES: Increased body mass index (BMI) is associated with several adverse pregnancy outcomes, though the underlying mechanism of this association has not been fully elucidated. A mediating role of low-grade systemic inflammation in these associations is suspected but has been understudied. Our objective was to examine the effect of pre-pregnancy BMI (pBMI) on maternal and neonatal pregnancy outcomes and to explore potential mediation of these effects by C-reactive protein (CRP), a first trimester peripheral marker of inflammation.
METHODS: Data from the prospective community-based ABCD-study cohort (n = 3547) was used to assess associations between self-reported continuous and categorized pBMI and outcome measures gestational hypertension (GH) and preeclampsia (PE), preterm birth (PTB) and small for gestational age (SGA) based on national perinatal registration linkage data. High-sensitivity CRP concentrations determined in serum were used to explore potential mediation of these associations by inflammation.
RESULTS: Multivariable logistic regression analyses, adjusted for confounders, showed that pBMI was significantly related to gestational hypertensive disorders (odds ratio (OR) per standard deviation (SD) 1.66, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.51-1.83) and PTB (OR 1.20, 95% CI 1.05-1.37). Dose-response relationships between categorical pBMI and gestational hypertensive disorders (overweight OR 2.37, 95% CI 1.85-3.03 and obese OR 4.45, 95% CI 2.93-6.72) and PTB (obese OR 2.12, 95% CI 1.16-3.87) were found as well. SGA was only significantly more prevalent in the underweight BMI category (OR 2.06, 95% CI 1.33-3.19). Mediation analyses revealed small but significant indirect effects of pBMI on overall PTB (0.037, bootstrapped 95% CI 0.005-0.065) and spontaneous PTB (0.038, bootstrapped 95% CI 0.002-0.069) through higher CRP. CRP was not a significant mediator of associations between BMI and gestational hypertensive disorders although larger mediation was found for GH than for PE.
CONCLUSION: Our findings provide additional evidence that high(er) pBMI increases the risk of adverse maternal and neonatal outcomes and that systemic inflammation mediates some of these risks. Further research in large cohorts including (morbidly) obese women is warranted to identify pathways that may be incorporated in future interventions to reduce the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes due to maternal obesity.