Girls who begin puberty at the age of 11 or younger are twice as likely to develop gestational diabetes, new research has shown.
Scientists from the University of Queensland made this finding following a study of 4,700 women who either started their menstrual cycle aged 11 or younger, or aged 13.
The data was obtained by examining information from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health.
Those who had their first period aged 11 or younger were 50 per cent more likely to develop gestational diabetes. The association remained consistent even after factoring for variables such as weight, Body Mass Index (BMI) and lifestyle.
“This finding could mean that health professionals will start asking women when they had their first period to identify those at higher risk of gestational diabetes,” said researcher Danielle Schoenaker.
Gestational diabetes increases the risk of complications for both mother and child, and lead researcher Professor Gita Mishra believes these findings are of “particular importance” in shaping future studies.
Mishra added that her team’s research indicates girls who start puberty early also may be at risk of developing other health problems.
“Research into this topic is of particular public health importance due to global trends of girls starting their menstrual cycles at a younger age,” she said.
“A large proportion of women who develop diabetes during pregnancy are overweight or obese, and encouraging those with an early start of puberty to control their weight before pregnancy may help to lower their risk of gestational diabetes.
“While a healthy weight is important, it is also plausible that the higher risk is explained by hormonal changes, and the research calls for more studies to investigate the mechanisms behind this.”
The findings appear online in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

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