In a huge study published in BJOG, researchers report that BMI and age during pregnancy may be a huge factor in determining the risk of gestational diabetes. Women of south Asian and African-American ethnicity were particularly at risk. Several recent studies have reported increased risk of gestational diabetes and diabetes after pregnancy in minorities.

The study included nearly 600,000 patient records. Researchers extracted data from records from patients seen at 15 hospitals in NW London. Records ranged from 1988 to 2000. After examining all of the data, researchers recorded information from 1,688 cases where pregnant women developed gestational diabetes and nearly 175,000 comparable pregnancies where women did not develop gestational diabetes.

To further narrow down the study results, researchers broke the women into narrow age groups. Age groups used for the study ranged from younger than 20 to older than 40. BMI for each of the women in the study was rated based on the guidelines established by the World Health Organization. Ratings ranged from underweight (a BMI less than 18.5) to obese (a BMI greater than 30). Taking age and BMI into consideration, researchers found age caused an increased risk of developing gestational diabetes across all ethnicities. When race was taken into consideration, younger African-American and south Asian women were at increased risk than younger Caucasian women. With increased age, the risk increased.

When only BMI was taken into consideration, there was an increased risk of developing gestational diabetes across all ages and ethnicities with increased BMI. According to Dr. Makrina Savvidou, study co-author, “Gestational diabetes complicates 3-5% of pregnancies. Currently in the UK, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence recommends a diagnostic test for gestational diabetes in women with traditional risk factors, such as increased body mass index, family or previous personal history of gestational diabetes, delivery of a large baby and racial origin with a high prevalence of diabetes. However, this new research shows that maternal age, alone and in correlation with the maternal racial origin, may also be a significant factor contributing to the development of gestational diabetes.”

Healthy eating during pregnancy has been linked to decreased risk of heart disease and diabetes for off-spring born to healthy mothers.

Source: Makgoba M, Savvidou M, Steer P. BJOG. 2 November, 2011.