Pregnancy

Women who don’t lose their baby weight at higher risk of type 2 diabetes

by Barbara Hewitt on March 27, 2014

New mothers who don’t lose excess weight gained during pregnancy after a year could be more at risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease, research has found.

While it has already been signalled that not losing baby weight for several years after pregnancy carries long term risks of diabetes, researchers at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Canada, have now looked at the effects in more detail.

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Research found that elevated risk factors 12 months after giving birth had not been present earlier at three months after birth

They tracked risk factors and weight in the first 12 months after giving birth among 305 women including tests for blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose levels, insulin resistance and weight.

Three quarters of the women lost at least some of their baby weight after 12 months and were found to maintain healthy levels in cholesterol, blood pressure and other tests. But one quarter of the women studied gained weight in that year, and these women showed a clear increase in risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

‘This finding helps us advise women about the importance of losing their excess pregnancy weight in the first year after delivery,’ said Dr. Ravi Retnakaran, an endocrinologist at the Sinai Centre for Diabetes and an associate professor at the University of Toronto.

‘With these results, we can say that failure to lose weight between three and 12 months postpartum will cause blood pressure, cholesterol, and insulin action in the body to move in an unhealthy direction,’ Retnakaran explained.

The research found that the elevated risk factors seen 12 months after giving birth had not been present earlier at three months after birth. ‘That means that the nine month window leading up to one year after birth is a critical time for women to ensure that they are losing at least some of their pregnancy weight,’ added Retnakaran.

The study is the first to follow mothers’ weight patterns for the first year after giving birth and check them against the full range of metabolic and cardiovascular risk factors. It provides direct evidence to support the theory that failure to lose baby weight carries long term implications for diabetes and heart disease risks.

‘These findings warrant further research, because doctors will want to know which interventions to suggest to women to help them maintain healthy weight patterns during this critical first year after delivery,’ said lead author Simone Kew of the Diabetes Centre at Mount Sinai Hospital.

Future research will include tracking weight against metabolic risk factors for two or three years in a similar sized group of women.

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