Clinicians have been urged to ensure children of mothers with gestational diabetes receive early screening for type 1 diabetes.
The warning comes following a study revealing that children born to mothers with gestational diabetes were twice as likely to develop type 1 diabetes before the age of 22.
The researchers from McGill University Health Centre, Canada, say the relationship needs to be examined in future studies, but the association could help to diagnose diabetes earlier in young people.
Around 25% of children and young people are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when they develop diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a dangerous complication of undiagnosed type 1 when blood glucose levels rise too high.
It was already known that mothers who had type 1 or type 2 diabetes increased their child’s risk of developing the condition, but in this study the Canadian team wanted to look at the impact gestational diabetes had on the risk factor to the child.
They studied 73,180 mothers between 1990-2012 and discovered the number of new type 1 diabetes cases per 10,000 person-years was 4.5 in children born to mothers with gestational diabetes, compared to 2.4 in mothers without.
Despite the findings, co-author Dr Meranda Naklha, a pediatric endocrinologist at the Montreal Children’s Hospital and an assistant professor of pediatrics at McGill University, reassured parents that “only a small number of children will develop diabetes before the age of 22, even if their mothers had gestational diabetes”.
“However, parents and healthcare providers should consider the possibility of diabetes if children start showing signs such has frequent urination, excessive thirst, or weight loss, particularly if their moms had gestational diabetes,” she added.
Gestational diabetes is a temporary condition that develops when blood sugar levels are too high. Once the woman has given birth, the condition disappears, but studies have looked at whether gestational diabetes can have other long-term effects on the mother and child.
It is highly recommended that women before, during and after pregnancy eat healthily and control their blood glucose levels to avoid or lessen the impact of gestational diabetes.
The findings have been published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ).

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