Advancing Age, BMI Predictors for Gestational Diabetes

Advancing maternal age and increased body mass index (BMI) can help predict gestational diabetes, especially in South Asian and black African women. That’s according to a new study published last week in BJOG, An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Increased BMI is a traditional screening factor for gestational diabetes. However, maternal age is not always included in diagnostic testing for the disease.

“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,” said Dr. Makrina Savvidou, MD, obstetrics and fetal medicine consultant at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in the UK and the study’s co-author.

Researchers analyzed data on pregnancies in North West London from 1988-2000. The study included 1,688 women who developed gestational diabetes and 172,632 who did not.

Analysis revealed that gestational diabetes increased with maternal age and varied by ethnicity. In women aged 40 years or older, the rate of the disease rose 1.9% in white European women (from 0.5% at age 20-24), 11.4% in South Asian women (from 1.1%), and 21.7% in black Africans (from 0.7%).

In addition, white European women older than 30 years of age had significantly higher risk of developing the disease than their 20-24 year-old counterparts.

When it comes to BMI, researchers found a strong link to maternal ethnicity and gestational diabetes as well. The stakes are particularly high for black African and South Asian women, who had higher odds of developing gestational diabetes in all four BMI categories than the comparison group of white European women with a normal BMI.

Meanwhile, white European and black Caribbean women who were overweight or obese had a significantly higher likelihood of developing gestational diabetes than the comparison group.

Women in the study were divided into four BMI categories according to the World Health Organization’s international classification of BMI: 18.5 (underweight), 18.50-24.99 (normal weight), 25.00-29.99 (overweight), and 30+ (obese).

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 2-10% of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes. A pregnant woman whose blood sugar remains high has an increased chance of preeclampsia, pre-term birth, and C-section.

Gestational diabetes is diabetes that is first diagnosed in pregnant women. Traditional risk factors for developing the disease include increased BMI, family or personal history of gestational diabetes, delivery of a large baby, and ethnicity with a high prevalence of diabetes.

Source: BJOG, An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology

photo by John Nyboer

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