New Study Identifies Potential New Risk Factor For Gestational Diabetes

In a recent article published in Diabetes Care, Clemson researchers report finding a significant association between early puberty and gestational diabetes. Although such a correlation doesn't necessarily mean that early puberty is a causative factor, it does introduce a new risk factor for doctors and patients to discuss when working to prevent gestational diabetes.


Research scientists from Clemson University, the Indiana University School of Medicine, and the Harvard School of Public Health performed the study investigating the relationship between the age of menarche, or first menstrual cycle, with the increased risk of gestational diabetes mellitus in women. Following up on the results of a 2013 EPIC-InterAct study linking early puberty and Type 2 diabetes, the Clemson study looked specifically at the relationship of early puberty to this specific type of diabetes.

Researchers examined data gathered from over 41,000 pregnancies in over 27,000 women. The gestational diabetes rate in women who experienced menarche at age 11 was 39 percent greater than in those whose first menstrual cycle was at age 14. Women who experienced their first menses at 12 or 13 years of age also had higher incidences of GDM than those who experienced menarche at age 14, but it was not as pronounced.


Additionally, the study concluded that pre-pregnancy body mass index mediated the relationship between early puberty and GDM. That conclusion, coupled with earlier research linking early puberty to adult obesity as well as research linking pre-pregnancy obesity to gestational diabetes, points to obesity as a mediating factor. As Dr. Liwei Chen from Clemson noted, but obesity is not the only factor. The results do, however, bolster arguments for good weight control before pregnancy. Further research is necessary to explain any causal relationship between early puberty and gestational diabetes, as is research on other related factors. Although this study does not prove that early puberty causes gestational diabetes, it is further evidence that research of the relationship should continue and suggests new areas to consider. Most importantly, is suggests why women who are pregnant or who are considering becoming pregnant should inform their doctors if they experienced early puberty.

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