Avoiding high blood sugar levels during pregnancy can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes being diagnosed in mothers 10 years after giving birth, according to research.
University of Manchester scientists identified a notably increased type 2 diabetes risk among mothers who had experienced high blood sugars during pregnancy.
The trial, a follow-up of the Hyperglycemia and Adverse Pregnancy Outcome (HAPO) study, involved recruiting 500 mums and their children.
The original HAPO trial monitored more than 23,000 mothers and their children, with high blood sugar levels during pregnancy linked to birth weight and body fat of the newborn babies. This led to the diagnostic criteria for gestational diabetes being changed.
This follow-up compared the long-term effects of blood glucose levels in mothers with and without gestational diabetes.
Females who had higher blood glucose during their pregnancy were nearly 11% more likely to have type 2 diabetes between 10-14 years later after they gave birth. A total of 42% had prediabetes.
Only 2% women who had not experienced elevated blood sugar levels during their pregnancy had developed type 2 diabetes at the follow-up visit.
Dr Barbara Linder, a study author and senior advisor for childhood diabetes research at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDKD), said: “Even accounting for the mother’s weight, glucose had an independent effect. Our findings add to the motivation to find ways to help women at high risk for gestational diabetes who are or plan to get pregnant to take steps to reduce their risk.”
The researchers also looked at nearly 5,000 children, taking into account their body mass index (BMI), body fat percentage, skin fold thickness and waist circumference. They discovered those whose mothers had experience high blood glucose when pregnant were more likely to be obese.
“This study shows that both mothers with elevated blood glucose levels and their offspring are at higher risk for adverse health effects later in life,” added study chair Dr Boyd Metzger, from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
Editor’s note: Recommending that high blood sugars should be avoided during pregnancy isn’t anything new, but these results reveal further how important good glucose management is in pregnant women with gestational diabetes. Lowering sugar consumption is the main way to achieve this, as well as reducing intake of starchy carbohydrates which turn into sugar in the body.