Another Reason Not to Light Up, Mom

Gestational diabetes and obesity risk linked to smoking by mother in pregnancy

(RxWiki News) It's well understood that women should not smoke while pregnant. Yet some women find it difficult to quit. Knowing some of the long-term effects may offer an extra motivational boost.

A recent study found the daughters of women who smoked during pregnancy may have higher risks of obesity and gestational diabetes later on.

Gestational diabetes is a pregnancy complication in which a woman develops diabetes during pregnancy even though she did not have it before pregnancy.

For most women, the diabetes goes away after giving birth. However, the condition can mean an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later.

"Don't smoke during pregnancy."

This study, led by Kristina Mattsson, a PhD candidate in the Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at Lund University in Sweden, looked at a woman's risk of developing gestational diabetes if she had been exposed to cigarette smoke while in her mother's womb.

The researchers analyzed data for 80,189 pregnancies in Sweden from 1982 to the present.

It was in 1982 that the data first started being collected on whether mothers were smoking during pregnancy.

The researchers divided smoke exposure to an unborn baby into three categories:

  • non-smokers
  • moderate exposure (1-9 cigarettes a day)
  • heavy exposure (more than 9 cigarettes a day)

Then the researchers looked at whether these women's babies, once born, went on to develop gestational diabetes, non-gestational diabetes and/or obesity.

Overall, out of the total study population, 291 women had gestational diabetes, 280 women had non-gestational diabetes and 7,300 women were obese.

The researchers found that women who were exposed to cigarette smoke before birth had a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes than women who were not exposed to cigarette smoke.

Women exposed to moderate smoking while their mothers were pregnant were 1.62 times more likely to develop gestational diabetes.

Women exposed to heavy smoking while their mothers were pregnant were 1.52 times more likely to develop gestational diabetes.

Women were also more likely to be obese if their mothers had smoked during pregnancy.

Women exposed to moderate smoking while their mothers were pregnant were 1.36 times more likely to be obese than women who were not exposed to smoking.

Women exposed to heavy smoking while their mothers were pregnant were 1.58 times more likely to be obese.

These findings mean that women whose mothers smoked during pregnancy could be anywhere from 36 to 62 percent at greater risk for gestational diabetes or obesity.

There are ways women can reduce their risks of gestational diabetes and obesity.

The most important way to reduce these risks is to have a healthy, balanced diet that is low in sugar.

This study was published in the August issue of the journal Diabetologia.

The research was funded by Lund University, its Medical Faculty, the Swedish Research Council, the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research, the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

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Review Date: 
July 10, 2013