Similarities in Maternal Weight and Birth Weight Across Pregnancies and Across Sisters

  • Ellen Luecke
  • Alison K. Cohen
  • Miranda Brillante
  • David H. Rehkopf
  • Jeremy Coyle
  • C. Emily Hendrick
  • Barbara AbramsEmail author


Objectives The current study examined how prepregnancy body mass index (BMI), gestational weight gain, and birth weight cluster between births within women and between women who are sisters. Methods Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 cohort, we utilized nested, multivariable hierarchical linear models to examine the correlation of these three outcomes between births (n = 6006) to women (n = 3605) and sisters (n = 3170) so that we can quantify the clustering by sibship and by woman for these three pregnancy-related outcomes. Results After controlling for confounding covariates, prepregnancy BMI (intraclass correlation (ICC) 0.24, 95% CI 0.16, 0.32), gestational weight gain (ICC 0.23, 95% CI 0.16, 0.31), and infant’s birthweight (ICC 0.07, 95% CI 0.003, 0.13) were correlated between sisters. Additionally, all three outcomes were significantly correlated between births for each sister, suggesting that prepregnancy BMI (ICC 0.82, 95% CI 0.81, 0.83), gestational weight gain (ICC 0.45, 95% CI 0.42, 0.49), and birth weight (ICC 0.31, 95% CI 0.28, 0.35) track between pregnancies in the same woman. Conclusions for Practice The observed clustering both within women and between sisters suggests that shared genetic and environmental factors among sisters play a role in pregnancy outcomes above and beyond that of women’s own genetic and environmental factors. Findings suggest that asking a woman about her sisters’ pregnancy outcomes could provide insight into the possible outcomes for her current pregnancy. Future research should test if collecting such a family history and providing tailored clinical recommendations accordingly would be useful.


Birth weight Body mass index Gestational weight gain Pregnancy Women 



This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health from the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities at the National Institutes of Health (Grant 5R01MD6104-2) and under a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (T32HD049302) from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to Hendrick. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health nor the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ellen Luecke
    • 1
  • Alison K. Cohen
    • 2
  • Miranda Brillante
    • 3
  • David H. Rehkopf
    • 4
  • Jeremy Coyle
    • 3
  • C. Emily Hendrick
    • 5
  • Barbara Abrams
    • 3
    • 6
    Email author
  1. 1.RTI International, Women’s Global Health ImperativeSan FranciscoUSA
  2. 2.Department of Public and Nonprofit AdministrationUniversity of San FranciscoSan FranciscoUSA
  3. 3.University of California Berkeley School of Public HealthBerkeleyUSA
  4. 4.Division of Primary Care and Population HealthStanford University School of MedicineStanfordUSA
  5. 5.Division of Reproduction and Population HealthUniversity of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public HealthMadisonUSA
  6. 6.Division of EpidemiologyUC Berkeley School of Public HealthBerkeleyUSA

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