In a recent study, researchers find a pregnant woman’s high blood sugar level is linked to a significantly greater long-term risk of obesity in her child even more than a decade later.
In addition, mothers with higher-than-normal blood sugar during pregnancy also were significantly more likely to have developed type 2 diabetes a decade after pregnancy.
Previous research has shown that treating high blood sugar during pregnancy reduces problems for the newborn and mother.
Lowering a mother’s blood sugar reduces the birth weight of the child, as well as the risk of pre-eclampsia.
This is a potentially life-threatening condition in which the mother has high blood pressure that affects her and the baby.
But prior to this study, it was unclear the risks related to blood sugar during pregnancy continue into childhood.
In the current study, the team used data from the HAPO-FUS (Hyperglycemia and Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes-Follow-Up Study) study.
The HAPO-FUS study evaluated children 10 to 14 years after birth in 10 clinical centers in seven countries: the US, Canada, Israel, the UK, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Barbados.
The study included 4,697 mothers and 4,832 children.
It demonstrates that even women with mild hyperglycemia during pregnancy and their offspring are at risk of harmful maternal and child health outcomes, potentially increasing the number of women and children at risk of acquiring lifelong chronic medical conditions
The researchers used multiple methods to determine the degrees of a child being overweight.
Simply calculating Body Mass Index (BMI) in kids has some limitations because a muscular young person will have a fairly high BMI but is not overweight.
The team measured the waist or hip as well as the thickness of the skin folds, which all correlate with how obese someone is.
They found the higher the woman’s blood sugar, the greater the risk of her child being obese.
The researchers suggest more work is needed to identify interventions that will improve the health outcomes of these women and children.
The corresponding study author is Boyd Metzger, professor emeritus of medicine at Northwestern University.
The research is published in JAMA.