Pregnant women who have higher levels of abdominal fat during their first trimester are more likely to develop gestational diabetes, a new study suggests.
Researchers from St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, Canada examined roughly 500 women aged 18 to 42. All the women had ultrasounds to assess their abdominal fat at 11 to 14 weeks of pregnancy.
The women with higher levels of abdominal fat were found to be more likely to develop gestational diabetes, which occurs at around 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy.
Pregnant women are traditionally screened for gestational diabetes during their second or third trimester. Age, ethnicity, Body Mass Index (BMI)and family history of diabetes are among the risk factors assessed.
According to study author Leanne De Souza, St. Michael’s Hospital, these risk factors “don’t really tell us who’s at a high risk of diabetes,” and that these new findings necessitate earlier screening for visceral and total fat during pregnancy, which were found to be predictors of gestational diabetes.
De Souza said: “Screening patients for visceral and total fat in their early stages of pregnancy could eventually be used to help doctors and health practitioners identify those at increased risk of gestational diabetes.”
Previous research has showed that between 20 to 50 per cent of women who develop gestational diabetes go on to develop type 2 diabetes within five years after pregnancy. Women at risk of gestational diabetes can undertake preventative measures, though, De Souza added.
“Prevention efforts could involve promoting a healthy diet and lifestyle, and helping patients avoid excess abdominal weight gain,” she said.
The study was published in the online journal Diabetes Care.