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Nutrition and Physical Activity Initiative

Multiple Factors Affect Birthing Parents' Weight

Obesity is a disease which results from a culmination of multiple factors which include but are not limitedto:

  • The community (policies, systems and physical environment) in which the birthing parent resides or spends most of their time. This includes limited access to affordable and healthy foods, persistent marketing and reduced cost of high calorie, nutrient deficient foods and lack of sidewalks, green spaces or bike trails to exercise.1
  • The birthing parent's values, beliefs and lifestyle, which will contribute to their child's future dietary patterns and physical activity.1
  • The birthing parent's experiences such as racism and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).2, 3 ACEs refers to a range of events that a child can experience, which leads to stress and can result in trauma and chronic stress responses such as weight gain. It is found that a higher ACEs score results in a higher likelihood of obesity.2 Studies show that racism has been linked to increased Body Mass Index (BMI) in birthing parents.3
  • Genetics which can affect how the body responds to environmental changes leading to an increase in hunger and food intake.4
  • Diseases such as polycystic ovary syndrome and medications such as steroids and anti -depressants, which can contribute to becoming overweight and obese.3


1 CDC. Adult Obesity Causes & Consequences. CDC. Updated June 11, 2020. Accessed October 28, 2019.

2 Merrick MT, Ford DC, Ports KA, et al. Vital Signs: Estimated Proportion of Adult Health Problems Attributable to Adverse Childhood Experiences and Implications for Prevention - 25 States, 2015–2017. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2019;68(44):999-1005. doi:

3 Mwendwa, D. T., Gholson, G., Sims, R. C., Levy, S. A., Ali, M., Harrell, C. J., Campbell, A. L., Jr. Coping with perceived racism: a significant factor in the development of obesity in African American women?.Journal of the National Medical Association. 2011;103(7), 602–608. doi:10.1016/s0027-9684(15)30386-2.

4 CDC. Adult Obesity Causes & Consequences. CDC. Updated June 22, 2020. Accessed August 29, 2017.

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