Climate May Affect Pregnancy: Gestational Diabetes Linked To Outdoor Temperature


Researchers have found a direct link between gestational diabetes and outdoor air temperatures, suggesting that climate may have an influence on a woman's health during pregnancy.

The findings, which were published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal on May 15, were based on an analysis of records of nearly 400,000 pregnant women in Canada who gave birth anytime from 2002 to 2014.

Gestational Diabetes And Its Risks

Gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy. Too much blood sugar that characterizes the condition can have serious consequences that can affect both the mother and the unborn baby. If this supposedly temporary condition is left untreated, it can result in stillbirth and increase odds of having difficult delivery.

An earlier study has found that gestational diabetes can cause the unborn baby to grow bigger in the womb, which can place the mother's life at risk during childbirth. The condition also raises the newborn's likelihood of becoming obese and diabetic later in life. Another research has shown that the obesity risk for babies born from mothers who suffered from gestational diabetes is threefold.

Outdoor Temperature And Prevalence Of Gestational Diabetes In Pregnant Women

For the new study, researchers found that gestational diabetes affected 4.6 percent of the women with exposure to very cold average temperatures of about -10 degrees Celsius 30 days before they were checked for gestational diabetes. The prevalence rose to 7.7 percent in women who were exposed to hot average temperatures of above 24 degrees Celsius.

Study researcher Gillian Booth, from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES), said that the findings go well with the science behind the production of different kinds of fat.

"Cold exposure can improve your sensitivity to insulin, by turning on a protective type of fat called brown adipose tissue," Booth said.

Besides finding higher incidence of gestational diabetes in pregnant women who had exposure to hotter temperatures, the researchers also found a lower prevalence of the condition in women born in colder climates compared with their counterparts who were born in hot climates.

The women who were born in places with cool climates such as United States and Canada and were exposed to cold temperatures had a gestational diabetes prevalence rate of 3.6 percent, while in those exposed to hot temperature, the rate was 6.3 percent.

For women born in regions with hot climates such as Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East, the rate of gestational diabetes was 7.7 percent for cold temperature exposures and 11.8 percent for exposure to hot air temperature.

Climate Change May Impact Prevalence Of Gestational Diabetes

The researchers said that the rising global temperature that can be attributed to climate change may hint of a future increase in the prevalence of gestational diabetes cases globally.

"Future climate patterns may substantially affect global variations in the prevalence of diabetes, which also has important implications for the prevention and treatment of gestational diabetes mellitus," the researchers wrote in their study.

Other Risk Factors

Besides temperature, other studies have also linked depression during early pregnancy, consumption of certain food such as potato prior to becoming pregnant, and use of hormonal contraceptives to increased likelihood for gestational diabetes.

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