Children whose moms had gestational diabetes during pregnancy could be at increased risk of developing type 1 diabetes
according to a study funded by Diabetes Canada and published in the April 2019 issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
Researchers have long known that children whose mothers or fathers have either type 1 or type 2 diabetes are more likely to develop the disease themselves. In this study, Dr. Kaberi Dasgupta and her team at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal wanted to find out if having a mother who had gestational diabetes (a type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy) also increases a child’s risk of developing diabetes later in life.
The McGill team looked at the health records of 73,180 mothers in Quebec who had given birth to a child between 1990 and 2012. Half of the mothers had gestational diabetes during their pregnancy; half did not. The researchers found that a child or teen whose mother had gestational diabetes was nearly twice as likely to develop type 1 diabetes before the age of 22 compared to those whose mothers did not have gestational diabetes.
"This study is important, as we try to understand risk factors for type 1 diabetes," says Dr. Jan Hux, president and CEO of Diabetes Canada. She adds that this research may encourage health-care providers to promptly test children for type 1 diabetes if they show typical symptoms (such as excessive thirst, frequent urination, or weight loss) and their mothers had gestational diabetes. Earlier diagnosis of type 1 diabetes may reduce the risk of children developing dangerous conditions such as diabetic ketoacidosis, a potentially life-threatening complication of diabetes that can occur when the body starts running out of insulin.
“Diabetes Canada looks forward to improving the lives and outcomes of children through greater research in this area," says Hux.
(This article appeared in Diabetes Dialogue, Autumn 2019)