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Amanda J Drake and Rebecca M Reynolds

The prevalence of obesity among pregnant women is increasing. In addition to the short-term complications of obesity during pregnancy in both mother and child, it is now recognised that maternal obesity has long-term adverse outcomes for the health of her offspring in later life. Evidence from both animal and human studies indicates that maternal obesity increases the risk for the offspring in developing obesity and altering body composition in child- and adulthood and, additionally, it also has an impact on the offspring's cardiometabolic health with dysregulation of metabolism including glucose/insulin homoeostasis, and development of hypertension and vascular dysfunction. Potential mechanisms include effects on the development and function of adipose tissue, pancreas, muscle, liver, the vasculature and the brain. Further studies are required to elucidate the mechanisms underpinning the programming of disease risk in the offspring as a consequence of maternal obesity. The ultimate aim is to identify potential targets, which may be amenable to prevention or early intervention in order to improve the health of this and future generations.

Open access

Victoria Tyndall, Marie Broyde, Richard Sharpe, Michelle Welsh, Amanda J Drake and Alan S McNeilly

We investigated the effects of different windows of testosterone propionate (TP) treatment during foetal and neonatal life in female rats to determine whether and when excess androgen exposure would cause disruption of adult reproductive function. Animals were killed prepubertally at d25 and as adults at d90. Plasma samples were taken for hormone analysis and ovaries serial sectioned for morphometric analyses. In prepubertal animals, only foetal+postnatal and late postnatal TP resulted in increased body weights, and an increase in transitory, but reduced antral follicle numbers without affecting total follicle populations. Treatment with TP during both foetal+postnatal life resulted in the development of streak ovaries with activated follicles containing oocytes that only progressed to a small antral (smA) stage and inactive uteri. TP exposure during foetal or late postnatal life had no effect upon adult reproductive function or the total follicle population, although there was a reduction in the primordial follicle pool. In contrast, TP treatment during full postnatal life (d1–25) resulted in anovulation in adults (d90). These animals were heavier, had a greater ovarian stromal compartment, no differences in follicle thecal cell area, but reduced numbers of anti-Mullerian hormone-positive smA follicles when compared with controls. Significantly reduced uterine weights lead reduced follicle oestradiol production. These results support the concept that androgen programming of adult female reproductive function occurs only during specific time windows in foetal and neonatal life with implications for the development of polycystic ovary syndrome in women.