Previous studies have shown that gestational diabetes puts women at greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life.
Gestational diabetes is also a common cause of babies who are large-for-gestational age (LGA), defined as babies who weigh more than 90 per cent of all babies of the same gestational age.
LGA babies are more likely to be admitted to intensive care unit and develop health complications later in life, including obesity and Type 2 diabetes themselves.
Now, researchers have found that mums-to-be who don’t have gestational diabetes but gives birth to an LGA baby are also at greater risk of developing diabetes later in life.
Their findings suggest that mums who do not have diabetes but deliver a large-for-gestational age baby are at an increased risk of developing prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes 10 to 14 years later.
Researchers used data from an observational study that analysed glucose tolerance in a large, multi-national, racially diverse group of mums-to-be in their third trimester of pregnancy.
Among the 4,025 who did not have gestational diabetes, 13 per cent had an LGA baby; eight per cent had a small-for-gestational age (SGA) baby; and 79 per cent had an average-for-gestational age (AGA) child.
Figures revealed that 10 to 14 years after giving birth, 20 per cent were diagnosed with prediabetes or diabetes and that the frequency of prediabetes or diabetes was higher among those who had an LGA birth (24.8 per cent) compared to those who had an SGA birth (15.4 per cent) or those who had an AGA birth (19.7 per cent).
The increased risk of diabetes and prediabetes with a LGA baby was still the case even after researchers adjusted for risk factors for developing Type 2 diabetes, such as age, obesity, high blood pressure, and a family history of diabetes.
Study lead author Doctor Kartik Venkatesh said: “So often in clinical practice when we see big babies and the individual doesn’t have gestational diabetes, we do not talk about the health consequences for the mother later in life.
“But this research suggests there may also be health consequences for the pregnant person even without gestational diabetes when they have a larger than normal sized infant.
“That’s why it’s so important to follow large groups of people and their babies, regardless of whether they had gestational diabetes or not, over a long period of time.”
Dr Venkatesh, of The Ohio State University in the US, added: “The real implication of this research is that we need to stop thinking of pregnancy care as episodic care by making these connections between pregnancy and long-term health outcomes in mothers and children in order to see the bigger picture.”
The findings were published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
Reporting by SWNS
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