Weight gain between pregnancies shown to increase risk of gestational diabetes

In women who experience two pregnancies, too much weight gain in the interim may predict an increased risk of gestational diabetes during the second pregnancy, according to a new study from the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research.

Gestational diabetes, similar to other forms of diabetes, is marked by persistently high levels of blood sugar. It usually sets in at some point in the pregnancy and clears up after giving birth. However, it can cause potentially serious birth complications.

Increased blood sugar levels can transfer to the baby through the placenta, causing its pancreas to produce higher levels of insulin. Additionally, this excess energy is often stored by the baby's body as fat, which leads to higher birth weights. Therefore, avoiding gestational diabetes is important to a healthy delivery.

For the study, researchers followed 22,351 women for up to 10 years. The results, which were published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, showed that participants whose body mass index increased between 2.0 and 2.9 points (roughly the equivalent of 12 to 17 pounds) between pregnancies were twice as likely to experience gestational diabetes. Risk continued to increase the more weight participants put on.

However, it may be possible to avoid the condition. The researchers noted that those who lost weight between pregnancies were significantly less likely to experience gestational diabetes.

Samantha Ehrlich, the lead author of the study, said that women who experience gestational diabetes are significantly more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life. Given this fact, it may be extremely important to help them avoid the condition. Preventing weight gain between pregnancies may be key.

"The results support the avoidance of gestational weight retention and postpartum weight gain to decrease the risk of gestational diabetes in a second pregnancy," Ehrlich said.