We hear a lot how what's happening in the mother's body during pregnancy effects the child later on. Because the baby feeds off the mother, the effects make sense. There could be serious medical issues that can arise in childhood as a direct effect of pregnancy. A recent study from the University of Tennessee Knoxville shows that a mother's high sugar levels during pregnancy can lead to childhood obesity. The research was conducted with researchers from Kaiser Permanente in Northern California.
Researchers used the data of 40,000+ women who had babies between 1995 and 2004 at Kaiser Permanante Northern California facilities. Additionally, they looked at the data of the children that followed them from birth to between 5 and 7 years old. What they discovered was that if the mother had elevated blood glucose levels, the children were at a higher risk of childhood obesity between 5 and 7 years old. This was the case even when the mother didn't end up having gestational diabetes.
Usually pregnant people have a blood glucose screen between 24 and 28 weeks gestation. Many of us who have been pregnant remember that awful test and the sugary drink. If they have an elevated blood glucose, more tests are often done. One of those tests is the test they use to determine if they have gestational diabetes.
Samantha Ehrlich, professor of public health at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and coauthor of the study, found the risk of childhood obesity rises 13 percent in the case of elevated blood glucose. This is comparing those cases to women with normal blood glucose levels. "And if the woman is indeed diagnosed with gestational diabetes, the risk of the child developing obesity increases by 52 percent," she adds.
Another significant thing the researchers found: the mother's BMI (body mass index) plays a role as well. If they have what is considered a "normal" BMI, elevated blood glucose is no longer a factor in developing childhood obesity. They don't indicate if those with a higher or lower BMI than normal are at higher risk.
"This information is important because it suggests that we may be able to prevent childhood obesity in two ways: by helping mothers to achieve a normal BMI before they become pregnant, and by reducing hyperglycemia during the pregnancy," Ehrlich explains.
This information can certainly lead to catching the signs of childhood obesity earlier.