Even in women who have not been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, high blood sugar during pregnancy has been linked with an increased risk of their children developing childhood obesity.
For the study, published in the journal PLOS One, researchers looked at data from more than 40,000 pregnant women who’d given birth between 1995 and 2004. The women had been screened for gestational diabetes, a typically temporary form of diabetes first diagnosed during pregnancy, between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. The investigators found that women who had elevated blood sugar levels — even if the levels were not high enough for a gestational diabetes diagnosis — had children who were 13% more likely to develop childhood obesity compared to women with normal blood sugar levels. In women who were diagnosed with diabetes, the risk of their child developing obesity was increased by 52%.
In mothers with a normal body-mass index (BMI) (a measure of weight relative to height), elevated blood sugar levels during pregnancy were not associated with an increased risk of childhood obesity.
According to study coauthor Samantha Ehrlich, PhD, MPH, “This information is important because it suggests that we may be able to prevent childhood obesity in two ways: by helping mothers to achieve a normal BMI before they become pregnant, and by reducing hyperglycemia during the pregnancy.”