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Early Pregnancy Weight Gain Ups Diabetes Risk

Study Shows Excessive Weight Gain in First Trimester Linked to Gestational Diabetes Risk
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Feb. 22, 2010 -- Women who gain more weight than is recommended early in pregnancy have an increased risk for developing gestational diabetes later on, a study shows.

Excess weight gain, especially in the first trimester, increased gestational diabetes risk by about 50% among the women included in the study.

And overweight women who gained the most weight in their first and second trimesters were twice as likely to develop gestational diabetes later in pregnancy as overweight women who gained the least weight.

Obesity is a well-known risk factor for gestational diabetes, which occurs in up to 7% of pregnancies in the U.S.

But the study is among the first to link weight gain early in pregnancy to gestational diabetes.

The study was conducted by the research arm of the California-based managed care group Kaiser Permanente. It appears in the March issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology. 

"There has been a dramatic rise in gestational diabetes within the past decade," study researcher Monique M. Hedderson, PhD, tells WebMD. "Women who develop gestational diabetes are more likely to have preterm deliveries and C-sections. And even after delivery they are at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes."

Babies born to women with gestational diabetes also have an increased risk for obesity and diabetes during childhood.

Minority Women Most at Risk

The three-year study included 1,145 women living in northern California who were followed throughout their pregnancies.

Weight gains were measured in the first trimester and again prior to screening for gestational diabetes, which typically occurred in the 24th to 28th week of pregnancy.

Actual weight gains were compared to recommended weight gains published by the health policy group the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in May of last year.

These guidelines call for weight gains of between 1.1 pounds and 4.4 pounds in the first trimester of pregnancy, regardless of weight at the beginning of pregnancy.

According to the IOM, normal-weight women should gain between 25 and 35 pounds during pregnancy, while overweight women should gain 15 to 25 pounds and obese women should gain 11 to 20 pounds.

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