Daughters born to overweight mothers who also developed gestational diabetes are significantly more likely to experience an earlier onset of one sign of puberty, a new study has found.
The findings showed that the in utero exposure to gestational diabetes and maternal obesity caused the earlier arrival of puberty in daughters, regardless of the girl’s obesity status.
Also, girls whose mothers were overweight before their pregnancy and also had gestational diabetes were 2.5 times more likely to have earlier pubic hair development than their peers whose mothers had normal weight and no gestational diabetes. This association was independent of race or ethnicity, household income and the mother’s age at her first menstrual cycle.
In addition, early puberty has been found to increase the risk of adverse health outcomes — including obesity, type 2 diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome and cancer in adolescence and adulthood.
“Women who are planning on becoming pregnant or are pregnant should be aware that their obesity or gestational diabetes may influence their child’s health in the future beyond the known risk of childhood obesity,” lead author Ai Kubo, Epidemiologist at the Kaiser Permanente — a US health care company.
The study — published in the American Journal of Epidemiology — is based on long-term research on an ethnically diverse sample of 421 girls and their mothers in Northern California. The girls were followed since they were between 6 and 8 years old from 2005 to 2012, with annual clinic visits to measure each girl’s height, weight and other parameters.
“Understanding what causes earlier onset of puberty is important in designing prevention strategies,” Kubo noted.