New Mom Weight Gain Linked to Diabetes

Obese women who gain just 11 lbs after gestational diabetes are 40 times more likely to develop full-blown type 2 diabetes, according to alarming new study

New Mom Weight Gain Linked to Diabetes O.Guero/Shutterstock

As if we needed more motivation to lose those pregnancy pounds. New research indicates that obese new mothers with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) who put on 5 kg (about 11 pounds) after their pregnancy are around 40 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. The study recently appeared in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes) and it correlates high BMI and increased risk of disease.

Of course, we all know that maintaining a healthy weight before, during, and after pregnancy is key to good health, but now medical professionals seem especially concerned about women with a history of GDM. In fact, weight gain is pretty common after pregnancy and throughout life among this population.

Researchers, primarily from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the US National Institutes of Health, followed 1,695 women for ten years and found that for every extra 5 kg of weight a woman gained, she had a 27% greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

That's an eye-opening figure and probably the reason for the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) and the American Diabetes Association (ADA) making recent recommendations for patients with a history of GDM to seek the help of a registered dietitian or community program for weight management. The simple correlation between BMI and type 2 diabetes risk should be enough to worry any woman into her workout gear.

What a new mom can do

Board certified internist and medical consultant for the state of New Jersey, Dr. Nancy Simpkins, says that although gestational diabetes is harder to predict, type 2 diabetes is very closely linked with a person's weight and how they store fat.

"The best way to get back in shape is eating healthy and [resuming or beginning] a good exercise routine," Simpkins says. This can take place two weeks after a normal, risk-free delivery. For C-sections, it takes about six weeks. "Get a jogging stroller, get outside every day, and walk two miles. It raises your resting metabolic rate," she says.

Although the recent research didn't directly demonstrate whether lifestyle factors could have a positive effect on type 2 outcomes, it was clear that women with lower BMIs fared far better. And given advancements in pre-diabetic testing, intervention is usually possible.

"Make an appointment with your internist or family doctor, get some blood work, and make sure all your levels are normal," Simpkins recommends. "You might be able to reverse type 2 diabetes, if it's in the early stages, with diet and exercise."

This knowledge should be empowering for women who may have tried very hard to be healthy during pregnancy, yet ended up with gestational diabetes anyway.

"This is the start of a new chapter of your life," Simpkins says. "Start it the right way by being healthy."

Looking for ways to stay fit after birth? Check out Fit Pregnancy's The Perfect Postnatal Workout to Do With Baby.