Maternal pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI) has been linked to altered gut microbiota in women shortly after delivery and in their offspring in the first few years of life. But little is known about how long these differences persist.
We followed 180 mothers and children from pregnancy until 5-year postpartum in the Gen3G cohort (Canada, enrolled 2010-2013). At 5 years postpartum we collected stool samples from mothers and children and estimated the gut microbiota by 16 S rRNA sequencing (V4 region) using Illumina MiSeq, and assigning amplicon sequence variants (ASV). We examined whether overall microbiota composition (as measured by microbiota β diversity) was more similar between mother-child pairs compared to between mothers or between children. We also assessed whether mother-child pair sharing of overall microbiota composition differed by the weight status of mothers before pregnancy and of children at 5-year. Furthermore, in mothers, we examined whether pre-pregnancy BMI, BMI 5-year postpartum, and change in BMI between time points was associated with maternal gut microbiota 5-year postpartum. In children, we further examined associations of maternal pre-pregnancy BMI and child 5-year BMI z-score with child 5-year gut microbiota.
Mother-child pairs had greater similarity in overall microbiome composition compared to between mothers and between children. In mothers, higher pre-pregnancy BMI and 5-year postpartum BMI were associated with lower microbiota observed ASV richness and Chao 1 index; in children's gut microbiota, higher maternal pre-pregnancy BMI was weakly associated with lower microbiota Shannon index, whereas child's 5-year BMI z-score was associated with higher observed ASV richness. Pre-pregnancy BMI was also linked to differential abundances of several microbial ASVs in the Ruminococcaceae and Lachnospiraceae families, but no specific ASV had overlapping associations with BMI measures in both mothers and children.
Pre-pregnancy BMI was associated with gut microbiota diversity and composition of mothers and children 5 years after birth, however, the nature and direction of most associations differed for mothers and children. Future studies are encouraged to confirm our findings and look into potential mechanisms or factors that may drive these associations.