Gestational Diabetes? Watch Your Weight

Type 2 diabetes risk greatly increased after gestational diabetes in obese women

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Lots of factors go into a patient's type 2 diabetes risk. New evidence suggests that gestational diabetes and weight changes could be among those factors.

A new study found that some women who became diabetic during pregnancy — called gestational diabetes — had an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later.

Weight also appeared to play a role in the development of diabetes. Women who were obese before pregnancy and gained weight after were found to be at greatly increased risk for type 2 diabetes.

“Our findings provide evidence to support … and highlight the importance of achieving and maintaining a healthy weight in these high-risk women to prevent future development of type 2 diabetes,” the authors of this study wrote.

Wei Bao, MD, PhD, of the National Institutes of Health in Rockville, MD, was the lead study author.

People with type 2 diabetes have high blood sugar. This is caused by the body's inability to use insulin effectively. Insulin is the hormone that regulates blood sugar.

In gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), a pregnant woman's body is not able to make and use all the insulin it needs for pregnancy. As a result, sugar accumulates in the blood.

These researchers used data from nearly 1,700 women who had GDM. Over 18 years, they looked at the women’s weight and other health data.

The women’s height and weight was used to estimate their body mass index (BMI). BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight.

Women were classified as normal weight, overweight or obese. A BMI of less than 25 was considered normal weight. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 was overweight. A BMI of 30 and above was obese.

These researchers found that for every point a woman's BMI increased from the start of this study, the risk of type 2 diabetes went up 16 percent.

Women with a BMI of 30 or more who had gained more than 11 pounds after having GDM had 43 times the risk of developing type 2 diabetes later. This risk increase was compared to women who had a BMI of 25 and gained less than 11 pounds after GDM.

The National Diabetes Education Program and the American Diabetes Association suggest that women with a history of gestational diabetes seek weight management support from a registered dietitian.

However, it still is not clear whether the progression from GDM to type 2 diabetes can be altered with lifestyle changes, Dr. Bao and team noted.

This study was published online March 18 in the journal Diabetologia.

The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development funded this research. Dr. Bao and team disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
March 17, 2015
Last Updated:
March 20, 2015