TUESDAY, Feb. 14, 2023 (HealthDay News) — Women who give birth to larger-than-average babies are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life, a new study suggests.
Large gestational age babies are defined as babies who weigh 8 pounds or more, said lead study author Dr. Kartik Kailas Venkatesh, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Ohio State University.
“In an environment of obesity, women are at greater risk of having larger babies,” he said. “And they’re also at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.”
Venkatesh said women who give birth to large babies are most likely suffering from glucose intolerance that causes high blood sugar during pregnancy.
“Even if you don’t have gestational diabetes, there’s probably still glucose intolerance that’s causing you to have a big baby, and that’s likely leading to you developing type 2 diabetes later in life,” he said.
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“I think we need to do more research on that so we can develop better counseling and prevention options for women and their families,” Venkatesh added.
For the study, Venkatesh and colleagues examined data from the Hyperglycemia and Adverse Pregnancy Outcome Follow-up Study. They found that of 4,025 women who did not have gestational diabetes, 13% still had large babies.
In the 10 to 14 years after giving birth, 20% of all women developed prediabetes or diabetes. The percentage of women with prediabetes or diabetes was higher in those who had large babies (25%) than in women who gave birth to normal (20%) or underweight (15%) babies, Venkatesh said.
The finding held even after the researchers took into account risk factors for type 2 diabetes, such as age, obesity, high blood pressure and family history of diabetes.
Venkatesh noted that only 25% of women with large babies develop type 2 diabetes. So even if you have a big baby, you’re not doomed to develop diabetes, he said.
The findings were presented Friday at the annual meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine in San Francisco, and were also recently published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
High blood sugar during pregnancy can contribute to having a big baby, said Dr. Dawnette Lewis, director of the Center for Maternal Health at Northwell Health in Manhasset, NY. She was not part of the study, but reviewed the findings.
“We think that if the mother’s blood sugar is high, that also means the baby’s blood sugar is high,” Lewis said. “Then what happens is an increase in insulin production to lower blood sugar, but insulin acts as a growth factor, which is why those babies are getting big.”
She said preventing diabetes starts with blood sugar screening, both during and after pregnancy.
If a woman’s blood sugar is high, Lewis said her diet should be changed to lower carbohydrates to lower blood sugar.
After the birth of a big baby, women should have their blood sugar checked to see if they are high.
“These patients should be monitored with what’s called a continuous glucose monitor, which is inserted subcutaneously and tests blood sugar every 15 minutes,” advised Lewis.
Two weeks of monitoring can indicate whether the patient is likely to develop diabetes, she said. After that, these women should have their blood sugar tested regularly by their GP.
“Even though they only have a 25% chance of developing type 2 diabetes, they should be screened by their GP every year,” Lewis said.
For more information on type 2 diabetes, see the American Diabetes Association.
SOURCES: Kartik Kailas Venkatesh, MD, PhD, assistant professor, epidemiology, Ohio State University, Columbus; Dawnette Lewis, MD, MPH, director, Center for Maternal Health, at Northwell Health, Manhasset, NY; February 11, 2023, presentation, Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, meeting, San Francisco; American Journal of Obstetrics and GynecologyJanuary 2023