Children whose mothers developed diabetes during pregnancy have a higher risk of becoming overweight by age 11 years.
Diabetes that develops during pregnancy when there is no history of the disease is called gestational diabetes, and nearly 8 percent of pregnant women develop it during their pregnancy. The increased risk of being overweight seen in children of mothers with gestational diabetes may be due to a combination of genetic inheritance as well as prenatal programming.
To study the impact of mother's gestational diabetes and weight on the child's risk of being overweight and insulin resistant, researchers followed 1,420 German children born between 1989 and 2000. Out of all, 232 children were born to mothers with gestational diabetes, 757 children born to mothers with type 1 or insulin-dependent diabetes and 431 to non-diabetic mothers. Blood samples and body measurements were taken several times until the children were 14 years old.
It was found that children born to obese mothers were more likely to have a weight problem than children born to lean mothers. Mother's weight early in pregnancy was the strongest predictor of her child's overweight status and resulting insulin resistance.
At age 2, 8 and 11 years, far more children of obese mothers were overweight than children of non-obese mothers. At age 11 years, for example, 46 percent of children of obese mothers were overweight compared with 12 percent of children of non-obese mothers. Overall, 31 percent of the children born to women with gestational diabetes were overweight by age 11 years compared to less than 16 percent of the children of non-diabetic mothers and mothers with diabetes type 1.
This study shows that children born to obese women with gestational diabetes might be programmed in the womb to be overweight and more prone to type 2 diabetes.