There seems to be a connection between gestational diabetes and childhood obesity. Studies suggest that gestational diabetes increases the risk of childhood obesity.
Gestational diabetes happens when someone who does not have type 2 diabetes develops insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels during pregnancy.
In addition to affecting your health — possibly
Several studies suggest that if you have gestational diabetes, your child may have an increased chance of developing childhood obesity. In one
The authors of a 2018 observational study reviewed data from 1,156 women and their offspring and found that, compared to babies born to mothers without gestational diabetes, those born to mothers with the condition had higher:
- body mass index (BMI)
- waist circumference
- body fat
- skinfold measurements
- risk for overweight and obesity
They found that elevated blood sugar levels in pregnancy — even if they were not high enough to qualify as gestational diabetes — increased childhood obesity risk in 5- to 7-year-olds by about 13%. Additionally, they found that if a mother had gestational diabetes, their child’s risk of developing obesity jumped to 52%.
You’ll notice we use the binary terms “women” and “mothers” in this article. While we realize these terms may not match your gender experience, they’re terms used by the researchers whose data was cited. We try to be as specific as possible when reporting on research participants and clinical findings.
Unfortunately, the studies and surveys referenced in this article didn’t report data for or may not have had participants who are transgender, nonbinary, gender nonconforming, genderqueer, agender, or genderless.
It’s unclear exactly why gestational diabetes may increase childhood obesity risk. One 2019 animal study suggests that exposure to high blood sugar in the womb may disrupt the development of the hypothalamus (the area of the brain that regulates body weight).
The authors of the 2018 observational study mentioned above suggest that the “metabolic imprinting” of high blood sugar in the womb may lead to long-term effects on the physiologic and metabolic responses of the child. Essentially, they say, the abundance of blood sugar may lead to overfeeding of the fetus, which influences development.
Babies born to people with gestational diabetes often have a higher birth weight and may develop high blood sugar. Both could have health effects in early childhood and beyond.
If you have a diagnosis of gestational diabetes, there are ways you can manage your blood sugar levels and help protect your health and the health of your baby. You’re not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rate of gestational diabetes increased from
Nursing your baby may also help. According to some research cited in a 2017 review, nursing your baby exclusively for at least 6 months may help reduce their obesity risk.
The authors of a
However, the authors of the 2017 review mention that no studies have specifically looked into the effect of nursing on babies who were exposed to gestational diabetes while in the womb.
They also point to the importance of lifestyle habits in reducing childhood obesity risk. While more research is needed, they say that maintaining healthy eating habits and including physical activity in daily life likely have a stronger influence on a child’s risk of obesity than exposure to gestational diabetes during development.
A child is considered to have obesity if their BMI is in the
Childhood obesity may increase the risk for serious chronic health conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. However, with education, support, and empathy, children can learn to eat balanced meals and become and stay active — habits that can support their overall health.
With the help of parents, teachers, caregivers, and healthcare professionals, kids who are at risk for obesity can feel empowered to make their own choices for better health.
How is obesity a risk factor for gestational diabetes?
According to a
Those changes — which are the hallmark of type 2 diabetes — can set you up to develop gestational diabetes once you become pregnant.
Can excessive weight gain cause gestational diabetes?
Does having gestational diabetes increase your risk for type 2 diabetes?
Your blood sugar levels will likely return to a typical range once your baby is born. But, according to
Studies suggest that there’s a link between gestational diabetes and childhood obesity. Researchers are still looking into the reason for this link, but it could be related to the effect that high blood sugar in the womb has on the development of the fetus.
If you have gestational diabetes, taking steps to manage your blood sugar will go a long way for your health and the health of your baby.