Gestational Diabetes Linked to Obesity in Female Offspring

Women who develop gestational diabetes mellitus tend to have daughters who become obese later in childhood.

New study results published in Diabetes Care suggest that women who develop gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) and were overweight prior to their pregnancies tend to have daughters who become obese later in childhood.

The long-term study examined 421 girls and their mothers, all of whom had electronic medical records in the Kaiser Permanente system. In the study, the researchers relied on maternal pregnancy glucose values obtained from the mothers’ records, in addition to tracking the girls between 2005 and 2011 while conducting annual clinic visits to measure their waist-to-height ratio, body mass index (BMI), and percent body fat.

According to the authors, 27 mothers in the study had GDM. If a girl was exposed to maternal GDM or hyperglycemia in utero, then her risk of having a BMI ≥85th percentile was 3.5 times higher than those whose mothers did not develop high blood glucose during pregnancy. A daughter’s risk of childhood obesity increased even more if her mother was also overweight or obese prior to becoming pregnant, the investigators found.

"Glucose levels during pregnancy, particularly gestational diabetes, were associated with the girls being overweight, and this association was much stronger if the mother was also overweight before pregnancy," concluded lead study author Ai Kubo, PhD, an epidemiologist at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research, in a press release.

Dr. Kubo pointed out that behavior modifications in women to reduce weight gain and improve lifestyle before and during pregnancy might reduce the risk of obesity in their female offspring.