How does weight gain affect my risk of getting gestational diabetes?

Risk factors make it easier for healthcare providers to determine who is more likely to develop gestational diabetes. Some risk factors are fixed – a family history of diabetes, for example, and being over the age of 25 (though the risk rises with age) – while others are more manageable.

One such factor is being of a certain weight, and how much weight you gain before and during pregnancy. Women who are overweight or obese before pregnancy are actually at the highest risk of developing gestational diabetes. Specifically, the higher a woman’s pre-pregnancy BMI, the higher her risk of gestational diabetes.

If your BMI is over 30, you’ll probably be tested for gestational diabetes earlier in your pregnancy, often in the first trimester. If the first trimester testing is normal, then repeat glucose tolerance testing will be performed later in pregnancy between 24-28 weeks. And regardless of your BMI, you’ll want to keep an eye on your weight gain during and after pregnancy, to reduce your risk of developing certain types of diabetes.

Weight gain during pregnancy

For most women, it’s not advised to try to lose weight during pregnancy, and of course, weight gain is necessary while you’re pregnant! The key is to gain the appropriate amount of weight for your body and baby during pregnancy. This means being aware of how much you should gain, as well as eating healthily and exercising if your healthcare provider allows.

Gestational weight gain that is higher than the recommended amount can also be associated with an increased risk for a C-section, as well as postpartum weight retention, so it’s an especially good idea to keep an eye on your pregnancy weight gain.

Weight gain after pregnancy

For a variety of reasons, some women aren’t able to lose their baby weight post-pregnancy. This can actually increase a woman’s risk of type 2 diabetes, or another incidence of gestational diabetes in a future pregnancy. Losing pregnancy weight after you deliver, and then maintaining a healthy weight, can greatly help lower your chances of developing type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes in the future.

For most women, a certain amount of weight gain during pregnancy is absolutely necessary, and by keeping an eye on the amount of weight that you gain during pregnancy, you’ll be able to reduce your risk of developing gestational diabetes. If you have any questions at all about weight gain and your risk of gestational diabetes, make sure to ask your healthcare provider, as they can tell you more about your specific pregnancy.

  • Monique M. Hedderson, PhD, et al. “Gestational Weight Gain and Risk of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus.” Obstet Gynecol. 115(3): 597–604. Web. Sep 2011. 
  • KM Rasmussen, et al. “Consequences of Gestational Weight Gain for the Mother.” Weight Gain During Pregnancy: Reexamining the Guidelines. National Academies Press (US). 2009. Web.
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