High blood sugar does increase a mother’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes, global study finds

by Barbara Hewitt on September 17, 2018

High blood sugar during pregnancy increases a mother’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes and child’s obesity, new research conducted at 10 different study sites around the world has found.

Mothers with elevated blood glucose during pregnancy, even if not high enough to meet the traditional definition of gestational diabetes, were significantly more likely to have developed type 2 diabetes a decade after pregnancy than their counterparts without high blood glucose.

Pregnant Woman Sleeping

(By Ivica Drusany/Shutterstock.com

However, for children born to mothers with elevated or normal glucose, researchers found no statistically significant difference between the two groups of children in terms of their combined overweight and obesity, the study’s primary outcome.

However, the team from the University of Manchester, which carried out one of the studies, also pointed out that when obesity was measured alone, children of mothers with elevated blood glucose were significantly more likely to be obese.

In Manchester more than 500 mother child pairs took part in the research of which many had also been involved with studies through childhood as part of the Hyperglycaemia and Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes-Follow-up Study (HAPO-FUS) following mothers and their children 10 to 14 years after birth.

The original HAPO study found that even modestly elevated blood glucose levels increased the risks of complications for the baby both before and shortly after birth. Based on these results many, but not all, organizations adopted a new definition of gestational diabetes, a type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy.

HAPO-FUS compared the long term effects of blood glucose levels in mothers who would have met the new definition of gestational diabetes with those who did not. Researchers aimed to learn if modest increases in blood glucose increased the mother’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes or prediabetes and the risk of obesity in the mother’s offspring at least a decade after giving birth.

The study found the harms of even modestly elevated blood glucose for both mother and child extend more than a decade. Among women with elevated blood glucose during pregnancy, nearly 11% had type 2 diabetes at the follow-up study visit 10 to 14 years after childbirth and about 4% had prediabetes.

Of their counterparts who did not have elevated blood glucose during pregnancy, about 2% had type 2 diabetes and about 18% had prediabetes. The study examined 4,697 mothers for type 2 diabetes, prediabetes and other disorders of glucose metabolism.

‘The differences in mothers and their children due to the mother’s higher blood glucose are very concerning. Even accounting for the mother’s weight, glucose had an independent effect,’ said Dr Barbara Linder, a study author and senior advisor for childhood diabetes research at the NIDDK.

‘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,’ she added.

None of the women in HAPO-FUS were diagnosed with or treated for gestational diabetes during their pregnancy. ‘HAPO and its follow-up study have shown the detrimental long term effects of elevated blood glucose on both mother and child and the importance of early intervention for women at risk for gestational diabetes,’ said NIDDK director Dr Griffin Rodgers.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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