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Teen moms likely to struggle with obesity later in life, finds study

Many of us have watched a few minutes of the hit MTV show “Teen Mom” and felt some sympathy for the situation that young women find themselves facing. While the show has revealed many of the pitfalls of being teen mom, including troubles with relationships and financial struggles, there’s one long-term health issue that watching the show won’t reveal: the link between teen pregnancy and obesity.

Now, researchers from the University of Michigan Health System have discovered a link between teen moms and a higher risk of obesity later in life. This is the first study to reveal teen pregnancy as a predictor of obesity. Prior to this study, a myth existed among the general public that teen moms are more likely to shed their baby weight after giving birth because of their age.

According to lead author Tammy Chang, a clinical lecturer in the department of family medicine at the U-M Medical School, health care workers often think about the short-term issues that come with being a teen mom and fail to consider the long-term health impacts of teen pregnancy. She added that obesity is one of the most crippling health issues faced by this nation.

Utilizing data from The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and controlling for race, education and socio-economic indicators, researchers discovered that women who had first given birth between the ages of 13-19 had a 32 percent greater risk of obesity than women who had their first child at age 20 or later.

According to Chang, additional research is needed to improve scientists’ understanding of the connection between teen moms and obesity. More knowledge of this link will help health care providers develop new ways of caring for teen moms and women who have given birth before the age of 20.

According to a news release from the U-M Health System, teen pregnancy rates in the U.S. are some of the highest in the developed world.

Chang noted that it’s extremely important to “identify at risk groups early” so that health care providers can intervene with the appropriate guidance and care.

What sort of health campaign could be developed to help teen moms who may one day struggle with obesity? What other health risks might teen moms be facing? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

The study’s findings are described in detail in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.