Your Diabetes Risk Skyrockets If You've Done This, Study Says


Right now, 32 million Americans are living with diabetes, a condition that affects the body's ability to make or use insulin properly. To make matters worse, another 88 million individuals—or one in three people—have prediabetes, a precursor to the disease. While these alarming statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that many Americans are at high risk of developing a blood sugar imbalance, a recent study warns that your risk is even more elevated if you've done one thing in particular. The team behind the study warns this particular risk factor is associated with a 20 percent higher likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes years later, not to mention some more immediate health consequences. Read on to find out whether you're at a heightened risk because of having done this—and how to lower your odds of developing diabetes as a result.

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If you've given birth to a baby weighing over nine pounds, your diabetes risk is higher.

Pregnancy is associated with an exhaustive list of biological changes, some of which can last long after delivery. In fact, experts say that your baby's weight at its time of birth can impact your long-term health—especially if the infant weighs nine pounds or more upon delivery, a condition known as macrosomia. Among other things, delivering a macrosomic baby can elevate your risk of diabetes.

According to a 2021 study published in the medical journal Maternal Health, Neonatology and Perinatology, causality is bidirectional when it comes to diabetes and macrosomic birth. In other words, having diabetes can make you more likely to deliver a baby weighing nine pounds or more, and delivering a baby of this weight can in turn make you more likely to develop diabetes.

In some cases, this can occur in the form of gestational diabetes (GDM)—a condition specific to pregnancy in which the placenta produces a hormone which prevents the body from using insulin effectively. "Women who give birth to a macrosomic infant, as defined as a birthweight greater than nine pounds (or approximately 4000 g), are encouraged to also get early type 2 diabetes screening, as macrosomia may be a surrogate marker for GDM," the researchers wrote.

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You may still get type 2 diabetes even without gestational diabetes during pregnancy.

The researchers found that not only did macrosomia make gestational diabetes more likely during pregnancy, it also made type 2 diabetes more likely postpartum. Among 10,089 women who had given birth, "macrosomia significantly increased the risk of maternal diabetes later in life," the researchers wrote. "Independent of GDM, women who deliver a macrosomic infant have a 20 percent higher chance of developing diabetes compared to women who did not," the team added.

The study concluded that this crucial insight should influence postpartum care. "Women who gave birth to a macrosomic infant in the absence of GDM should be offered earlier and more frequent screening for type 2 diabetes," the researchers advised.

Delivering a macrosomic infant may cause other complications.

According to the Mayo Clinic, roughly nine percent of all babies are born weighing nine pounds or more. However, a 2015 study published in the journal Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism (ANM) places that number even higher at 12 percent, and notes that between 15 and 45 percent of expectant mothers with gestational diabetes deliver babies over that weight.

In these cases, there is a higher risk of complicated vaginal delivery, fetal injury during birth, and health problems for the infant after the birth, the health authority notes. Specific risks to the mother may include injury to the birth canal, excess bleeding following delivery, or uterine rupture. Additionally, macrosomic infants are at heightened risk of low blood sugar, childhood obesity, and metabolic syndrome during childhood. The ANM study further adds that, like their mothers, macrosomic infants themselves "are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life."

Here's how to lower your risk.

The Mayo Clinic says that there are several ways that you can lower your risk of fetal macrosomia, beginning with managing diabetes or gestational diabetes, if present. This requires pregnant people to monitor and control their blood sugar levels throughout their pregnancy.

Additionally, the health authority recommends gaining a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy. Scheduling a preconception appointment with your healthcare provider can help you determine what constitutes a healthy range for your body.

Finally, being physically active before and during pregnancy can help lower your chances of macrosomia, in turn lowering your risk of gestational or type 2 diabetes. Promoting a healthy pregnancy is your best chance of preventing macrosomia and its potential risks.

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