The long-term effects on children of women who develop gestational diabetes have been investigated in a new study.
Up to 20% of women develop gestational diabetes, which indicates high blood glucose levels during pregnancy. This can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and other complications for the mother and can increase the risk of health problems for the baby unless interventions to lower blood glucose are made.
This study is the first time researchers have looked at how gestational diabetes can impact the child once they reach the age of 10 and older.
The trial involved 4,160 children aged 10-14 years who completed all or part of an oral glucose tolerance test, and whose mothers had been found to have gestational diabetes at 28 weeks of pregnancy.
The researchers found that when a pregnant woman had untreated gestational diabetes, the child was more likely to have prediabetes and obesity when compared to children of mothers who did not have higher blood glucose.
“Our study shows that independent of a mother’s weight or genetic predisposition to diabetes, a mother’s blood glucose level during pregnancy independently adds to the risk of both obesity and glucose intolerance in her child,” said lead investigator Dr Boyd Metzger, professor emeritus of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
Dr Metzger added: “The fact that these conditions in the child at 11 years of age are related to the mom’s glucose level in her pregnancy is an additional reason gestational diabetes should be identified and treated.”
The researchers added that while treatment for gestational diabetes can reduce newborn complications such as Caesarean section and stillbirth, they do not understand why a mother’s glucose metabolism during pregnancy affects her child’s glucose metabolism.
The findings have been published in the Diabetes Care journal.