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Objective: Obesity and cardiovascular disease are major global public health problems. Maternal obesity has been linked to multiple adverse health consequences for both mother and baby. Obesity during pregnancy may adversely alter the intrauterine environment, which has been hypothesised to predispose the offspring to poorer cardiovascular health throughout life. In this paper, we systematically review current literature examining the links between maternal obesity and offspring cardiovascular health. Methods: This study is registered with PROSPERO (CRD42021278567) and was conducted in accordance with the PRISMA guidelines. A comprehensive systematic literature search was conducted, including two electronic databases (Ovid Medline, Embase), cross-referencing, author searching, and grey literature searches. We selected studies exploring the relationship between maternal obesity and offspring cardiovascular health, using pre-defined eligibility criteria. Studies were critically appraised using the ROBINS-I tool. Results: From 1,214 results, 27 articles met the eligibility criteria. Multiple cardiovascular outcomes were considered, including congenital heart disease, cardiometabolic parameters, and cardiovascular diseases in neonates, children, and adults. In these studies, maternal obesity was consistently associated with congenital heart disease, several adverse cardiometabolic parameters throughout life including higher body mass index and insulin levels, and greater risk of cardiovascular disease in adulthood. Hypothesized underlying mechanisms are complex and multifactorial comprising genetic, environmental, and socioeconomic components, which can be difficult to quantify. Heterogeneity in study designs, highly selected study samples, and high risk of bias in some studies limit conclusions regarding causality. Conclusions: We identified consistent evidence of links between maternal obesity and poorer offspring cardiovascular health throughout the lifecourse, extending from the neonatal period into adulthood. Although underlying mechanisms are unclear, our findings support consideration of targeted maternal obesity prevention for promotion of offspring cardiovascular health. This all-encompassing systematic review provides critical appraisal of the latest evidence, defines gaps and biases of existing literature, and may inform potential new public health strategies for cardiovascular disease prevention. Systematic Review Registration: [], identifier PROSPERO (CRD42021278567).

Original publication




Journal article


Front Endocrinol (Lausanne)

Publication Date





cardiometabolic disease, cardiovascular disease, congenital heart disease, lifecourse epidemiology, maternal obesity, obesity, women’s health, Adult, Body Mass Index, Cardiovascular Diseases, Child, Female, Humans, Infant, Infant, Newborn, Obesity, Obesity, Maternal, Pregnancy, Pregnancy Complications