Women who gain substantial weight between pregnancies more prone to diabetes

by Barbara Hewitt on August 8, 2017

A new study has found that women who gain substantial amounts of weight after their first pregnancy may be more likely to develop gestational diabetes during their next pregnancy.

Experts point out that it is important to prevent gestational diabetes, which is a form of glucose intolerance that develops for the first time during pregnancy, as it can lead to complication for mothers and babies.


The researchers from the University of Bergen in Norway found that women who gained up to two BMI units of weight between pregnancies had a doubled risk of gestational diabetes compared to women who gained no more than one BMI unit while those who gained four BMI units had a fivefold increased risk of gestational diabetes.

The condition is more common among women who are overweight or obese when they become pregnant or who gain a lot of weight during pregnancy.

‘It is important to prevent gestational diabetes as it is associated with complications in mothers and babies during birth, and health care costs in mothers with gestational diabetes are 25 percent higher compared to non-diabetic mothers,’ said lead study author Linn Marie Sorbye, a midwife and public health researcher at the university.

The researchers analysed data on 24,198 mothers in Norway with a first and second pregnancy between 2006 and 2014. Overall, there were 18 cases of gestational diabetes for every 1,000 second pregnancies.

Women who are underweight at the start of pregnancy should gain 28 to 40 pounds, while women who are normal weight are advised to gain 25 to 35 pounds, according to the US Institute of Medicine. For overweight women, a 15 to 25 pound gain is recommended and obese women should gain just 11 to 20 pounds.

Slightly more than one third of the women in the study gained more than one BMI unit of weight between the start of their first pregnancy and the start of their second pregnancy. This included women who didn’t lose all of the weight after the first baby arrived as well as women who gained extra pounds between pregnancies.

The study wasn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove how or if a failure to lose baby weight or a gain of extra pounds between pregnancies causes gestational diabetes.

‘Further research is needed to tease out exactly how changes in weight, particularly over short time interpregnancy intervals, have adverse metabolic effects in future pregnancies,’ said Dr. Jacinda Nicklas, a researcher at the University of Colorado School of Medicine who wasn’t involved in the study.

However, shorter periods between pregnancies may not give women enough time to lose weight and increase their risk of gestational diabetes the second time around, according to Dr. Sharleen O’Reilly a researcher at University College Dublin in Ireland.

‘Weight loss should be a mix of healthy eating and more physical activity, and we know that both together are more effective in helping women lose weight after pregnancy,’ she added.

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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