By Apollo 24/7, Published on - 29 June 2021
The journey of pregnancy can be different for different women. While most sail through the nine months smoothly, a few may experience complications due to their medical history and lifestyle. Though most of these complications resolve on their own, some can be harmful to the mother as well as the baby. One such complication is gestational diabetes, which is characterised by high blood sugar levels during pregnancy. Obesity or genetic predisposition are some of the known risk factors associated with gestational diabetes.
In a recent study, scientists in the United Kingdom established that hot weather could also increase the risk of diabetes in pregnant women. The research also investigated and recorded the impact of COVID-19 on gestational diabetes.
In the study published in the journal BJOG on 28th May 2021, scientists conducted 4-year long research in their hospital to determine the effect of seasons on the rates of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM). Scientists further investigated the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the cases of GDM.
The incidence of GDM was investigated in more than 28000 pregnant women with the help of an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). The participants undertook OGTT before 33 weeks of gestation. The women were assessed for GDM according to the seasons - winter (December to February), spring (March to May), summer (June to August), and autumn (September to November).
The findings of the study provided insightful statistics:
Scientists believe that the seasonal change in the blood sugar levels of pregnant women could be related to the metabolism of brown adipose tissue. Brown adipose tissue is a layer of fat that releases heat to maintain the body temperature while balancing blood sugar levels. Several studies indicate that colder temperature improves insulin sensitivity in the body by metabolising the brown adipose tissue. However, with the temperature rise, the fatty tissues do not get metabolised enough, causing increased blood sugar levels to be reported during the summer season.
Scientists further believe that the increase in the number of cases of GDM post-COVID-19 pandemic may be either due to lack of exercise during the lockdown or stress-induced hyperglycemia.
Similar studies have been conducted previously that indicate the impact of seasons on the occurrence of gestational diabetes. Some of these studies include:
Any pregnant woman can develop gestational diabetes but some factors that can increase the risk of developing the condition include:
Anti-diabetic medications such as metformin (oral drug) or insulin (injectable drug) may be prescribed to reduce the levels of blood glucose in pregnant women. Besides medications, measures that can help deal with gestational diabetes include:
With the studies mentioned above, scientists concluded that hot weather can be a trigger for gestational diabetes. However, scientists are yet to identify if this change has a long-term effect on insulin sensitivity or beta-cells of the pancreas, which release insulin in the body. Therefore, it is important for women diagnosed with gestational diabetes to get regular follow-ups to avoid any long-term effects of hyperglycemia after the pregnancy.
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