A new study aims to prevent childhood obesity before children are even born by having their mothers take drugs during pregnancy. The medication has been proven safe, but since this research deals with motherhood and obesity, naturally some are complaining that the subjects are being lazy and irresponsible by simply "popping a pill" to improve their baby's health.
The Telegraph reports that 100 obese pregnant women at Liverpool Women's Hospital in England are being given Metformin, a common diabetes drug, in an effort to reduce the blood sugar levels passed to the fetus. The medication is already used to treat diabetic pregnant women and won't make the mothers lose weight. Obstetrician Dr. Andrew Weeks, who's leading the trial, says:
"It is about trying to improve outcomes in pregnancy for women who are overweight ... The problem is babies tend to be larger and many of the downsides of being overweight during pregnancy relate to the birth."
The doctors are hoping the women will have smaller babies, which would reduce the need for c-sections and the risk of pre-eclampsia, which is more common with overweight mothers.
Alison Wetton, who just happens to be the CEO of All About Weight, "the UK's fastest growing weight loss organization," says she finds the study "disturbing." Will Williams, the company's scientific advisor adds:
"Women wanting to conceive could instead lose weight by following a healthy weight loss plan, including diet and exercise. This would achieve all the things that the Metformin trial is hoping to do, without the risks or costs of adding a drug with uncertain long term effects. This would be far preferable to popping a pill that may help pregnancy outcomes. It is unlikely to break the cycle of an unhealthy lifestyle leading to overweight children and the continuing rise of obesity and diabetes in the general population."
Yes, obese women could lose weight (maybe even by following the All About Weight plan!) but not every pregnancy is meticulously planned, losing weight can be difficult. Dr. Weeks responds:
"To suddenly change to a different lifestyle is not easy to do. Lifestyle change takes time and we would always encourage this as well but the use of Metformin gives us another option when the other is not realistic."
If this were a new and experimental drug, there may be cause for concern, but since Metformin is already regularly prescribed to diabetic mothers to be, there's no harm in studying if it may have other uses in pregnancy. It may be better for women to not be obese while pregnant, but in real life many women are not in peak physical condition when they get pregnant. That doesn't mean their babies deserve to be denied a medical intervention that could make them healthier.
Babies Given Anti-Obesity Drugs In The Womb [Telegraph]
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