overweight 180New research from US scientists has found that in women who have developed gestational diabetes mellitus during pregnancy, being obese before the pregnancy and putting on more weight after it massively increases the risk of later developing type 2 diabetes.

The team led by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the US National Institutes of Health found a much higher risk of type 2 diabetes developing in women in these circumstances also.

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Previous studies have shown that as many as a third of women with type 2 diabetes have a history of gestational diabetes during pregnancy, and as a result, women with a history of diabetes during pregnancy are usually advised to control their weight after giving birth.

For the study, the authors used data from women with a history of gestational diabetes in the Nurses’ Health Study II (NHS II), as part of the ongoing Diabetes & Women’s Health study.
The latter aims to identify what determines progression from gestational diabetes to type 2 diabetes among participants in NHS II and the Danish National Birth Cohort.

Women were eligible for the new study if they reported incident gestational diabetes from 1991 to 2001, and 1,695 women were included in the study. They were followed up until the return of the 2009 follow-up questionnaire. The data showed 259 incident cases of type 2 diabetes during up to 18 years of follow-up.

Analysis showed that there was an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes of 16% for each increase of one unit (1 kg/m2) in either baseline BMI (body mass index) or most recent BMI. In addition, each 5 kg increment of weight gain after gestational diabetes development was associated with a 27% higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

Commenting on the research, Janet Fyle, professional policy advisor at the Royal College of Midwives, said: “This research underlines the need for women to start their pregnancy in optimal health at a healthy weight and to maintain this during and after their pregnancy.

“It also shows the need for better information, education and support for women about the benefits of healthy eating during pregnancy: for example, we need to dispel the myth that women need to eat for two during pregnancy. It is important for women to realise that help is available for them from midwives and others, to manage their weight during pregnancy and to avoid gaining too much.

“Behind of all this is a pressing need for more health education for the population as a whole, about the potential problems that can arise from being overweight or obese and about the need for a healthy lifestyle.”