Measuring Blood Sugar and Body Weight Can Predict GDM up to 7 Years before Pregnancy

May 26, 2011

A woman's risk of developing diabetes during pregnancy can be predicted up to seven years prior to pregnancy.

According to a recent study, a woman's risk of developing diabetes during pregnancy can be predicted up to seven years prior to pregnancy, as long as her blood sugar and body weight are routinely measured.

Researchers the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, California, studied 580 ethnically diverse women who participated in a multiphasic health check-up at Kaiser Permanente Northern California between the years 1984 and 1996. They examined pregnant participants and compared women who developed gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) during their pregnancy to women who did not develop GDM.

The researchers discovered that the more adverse risk factors which are commonly associated with diabetes and heart disease—such as high blood sugar, hypertension, and obesity—present prior to pregnancy, the higher the risk that a woman would develop GDM.

The authors of the study established that unhealthy levels of blood sugar and body weight were associated with a 4.6-fold increased risk of GDM, compared to women with normal levels.

A previous report performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2006 supports this research, as this study provides sufficient evidence that pre-conception care may be necessary for healthier pregnancies. The CDC report indicated that risk factors for adverse outcomes among women and infants can be recognized before conception; in some cases, said the report, there it may be necessary to start—and sometimes finish—interventions prior to conception.

Previous research has also shown that women who develop GDM during their pregnancy are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes following pregnancy.

"Our study indicates that a woman's cardio-metabolic risk profile for factors routinely assessed at medical visits such as blood sugar, high blood pressure, cholesterol and body weight can help clinicians identify high-risk women to target for primary prevention or early management of GDM," said lead author Monique Hedderson, PhD, a research scientist at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research.

Researchers stress the importance of women who wish to become pregnant to get a better understanding of pre-pregnancy predictors of GDM, which can aid women to identify their risk of developing GDM and get into intervention programs before pregnancy.

Known risk factors for developing GDM are having a baby at an older age, obesity, non-white race/ethnicity, giving birth previously to a very large baby, and a family history of diabetes; in up to half of women who develop GDM, however, these risk factors are not present.

The study is published online in American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.