Women who conceive in winter are at a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy, increasing the risk of other health problems for both them and the baby.
Led by the University of Adelaide, Australia, which worked with the University of Groningen in the Netherlands and the Pregnancy Outcome Unit of SA Health, a large-scale study looked at more than 60,000 births in South Australia over a five-year period.
The team found that between 2007-2011, the incidence of pregnancies affected by gestational diabetes increased from 4.9% in 2007 to 7.2% in 2011.
However women who conceived in winter were more likely to develop gestational diabetes during their pregnancy, with 6.6% of pregnancies from winter conceptions affected, compared to 5.4% of summer conceptions.
The research is the first of its kind to find strong evidence of a link between gestational diabetes and the season in which a child is conceived.
A serious pregnancy condition characterized by inadequate blood sugar control in pregnancy, gestational diabetes can cause excessive birth weight, pre-term birth, low blood sugar (which in extreme cases can lead to seizures in the baby), and developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Although lead author Dr Petra Verburg commented that what causes gestational diabetes is still not fully understood, she explained that, “Previous studies have suggested that meteorological factors, physical activity, diet and vitamin D are risk factors for gestational diabetes, all of which are impacted by the winter season.”
Research leader and senior author Professor Claire Roberts also added that, “Elevated BMI and low physical activity are risk factors for gestational diabetes, as well as low socio-economic status. These factors are modifiable, and they represent targets for interventions to prevent the rising tide of gestational diabetes.”
The team now suggest more research to confirm their results, as well as look at other factors that vary with the season.
The results can be found online published in the journal BMJ Diabetes Research & Care.
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