Women who use hormonal birth control before they get pregnant may be more likely to develop diabetes during pregnancy, according to a new, first-in-kind study.
The research, published online July 17 in the Preventing Chronic Disease journal, suggests that hormonal contraceptives raise the risk of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), a type of diabetes that occurs or his first recognised in pregnancy and is estimated to affect up to 15% of pregnant women worldwide.
To investigate whether a relationship exists between methods of birth control and gestational diabetes risk, Dr Venkata Garikapaty, of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, and colleagues analysed data from over 2,700 women who completed the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) survey.
Participants were asked questions about their history of gestational diabetes and their use of birth control, both before becoming pregnant and after giving birth.
More than 8 out of 10 (8.3%) of the women reported being diagnosed with GDM in their most recent pregnancy. 18% of the women said they used hormonal contraceptio, such as birth control pills, contraceptive patches, and cervical rings, making it was the most common form of contraceptio, closely followed by condoms and other barrier methods at about 17%.
The team concluded that women who used hormonal contraceptive methods were 1.4 times more likely to develop gestational diabetes than women who did not use any form of birth control.
“Although researchers have not established a causal relationship between hormonal contraception use and [gestational diabetes], results of our study suggest there may be an underlying correlating mechanism,” the researchers wrote.
However, they added that “more research is needed to verify contraception as a potential risk factor” for gestational diabetes.
Limitations of the study included the fact it only focused on one US state and was based on self-reported data. It did not specify if the women had been asked about the exact timing and duration of their contraception use, and whether they were on birth control when they got pregnant.

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