decades later.

The findings are especially important because of the growing epidemic of obesity in women, Stuebe says. If we can help women reach a healthy weight before they start a family, we can make a difference for two generations.

In the study, mothers’ recalled weights and weight gain for more than 24,000 mother-daughter pairs were analyzed. It was found that mothers who were overweight before pregnancy had daughters more likely to be obese in later life. For an example, an average-height mother who weighed 150 pounds before pregnancy was twice as likely to have a daughter who was obese at age 18 as a mother who weighed 125 pounds before pregnancy.

Women should aim for a healthy weight before they get pregnant, and then gain a moderate amount, Stuebe said.

Stuebe analyzed 24,000 mother-daughter pairs data from Nurses’ Health Study II. The daughters involved as a part of the Nurses’ Health Study reported their weight at age 18 in 1989, and they reported their current weight in 2001.

In 2001 they collected each mother pre-pregnancy height and weight, her weight gain while she were pregnant with her daughter, and her daughters’ weight at birth.

They found that there was little risk for daughters whose mothers gained 15 to 19 pounds weight during pregnancy where as daughters whose mothers gained more than 40 pounds while pregnant were almost twice as likely to be obese at age 18 and later in life.

Small gain in weight was also associated with a daughter’s obesity risk. If the weight gain was less than 10 pounds, there was 1.5-fold increase in the odds of being obese at 18 and a 1.3-fold increase in odds of being obese in later life.