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Overweight IVF mothers at greater risk of diabetes in pregnancy

Women who are overweight and conceive by in vitro fertilisation (IVF) are twice as likely to develop gestational diabetes – making losing weight beforehand a key target for these mothers to be.

New research involving Southampton’s Professor Keith Godfrey suggests that women who lose weight before IVF could cut their risk of developing gestational diabetes during the pregnancy.

The results, published in the journal Human Reproduction, showed that pregnant women who conceived by IVF were almost twice as likely to develop gestational diabetes as women who conceived naturally.

The increased risk of gestational diabetes in IVF pregnancies was independent of recognised risk factors for gestational diabetes, but was only present if the mother was overweight or obese. Those conceiving by IVF who had a healthy body mass index (BMI) did not have an increased risk of developing the condition.

Diabetes in pregnancy

Gestational diabetes affects pregnant women and results in high blood sugar levels. This can cause pregnancy complications, including the baby growing particularly large, too much amniotic fluid being produced, pre-eclampsia, jaundice, or premature birth, and increases the risk of the baby becoming overweight in later childhood.

Gestational diabetes occurs because of hormonal changes that can affect how insulin - the hormone that helps the body use sugar – works, or because the body is unable to make enough insulin to meet the extra demands of pregnancy.

The importance of bodyweight

The researchers assessed gestational diabetes in 1089 pregnant women (1013 natural conceptions, 76 IVF) participating in the Growing Up in Singapore Towards healthy Outcomes (GUSTO) project, and found that women who conceived through IVF were twice as likely to develop the condition.

Yet when they looked more closely at the data, they discovered that this only applied to women who were overweight or obese.

Women who lose weight before undergoing IVF may be able to reduce their risk of developing gestational diabetes during their pregnancy, helping to look after their health during pregnancy and giving their child a better start in life.

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