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18 May 2017

Hot Weather Linked to Increased Likelihood of Gestational Diabetes during Pregnancy

We’ve spoken before about the potential dangers posed by unusual or extreme temperatures on pregnant women and their unborn children, with negative effects including an increased risk of preterm birth, and low birth weights in new-borns. Unfortunately, these aren’t the only weather-related conditions to be on the lookout for when pregnant, as a new study has now suggested a link between hot weather and an increased likelihood of developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy.

The study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, examined 555,911 births among 396,828 women in Canada over a 12-year period from 2002-2014. It was found that pregnant women who exposed themselves to temperatures averaging 24°C or above were at greater risk of developing gestational diabetes, whilst those remaining in climates averaging -10°C or colder stood less chance of developing the condition as compared to those experiencing hot temperatures.

The exact figures show that those in warmer climates have a 7.7% higher risk of developing gestational diabetes; for those in cold climates, this figure sits at 4.6%.

It was further found that for every 10°C increase in temperature, the relative risk of developing the condition rises by 6 to 9°C. The researchers believe that this may be due to the way in which our bodies activate reserves of ‘brown fat’ when exposed to cold climates.

Lead author Gillian Booth, a researcher at St Michael Hospital in Ontario, Canada , said of the study and its results, “Many would think that in warmer temperatures, women are outside and more active, which would help limit the weight gain in pregnancy that predisposes a woman to gestational diabetes.

“However, cold exposure can improve your sensitivity to insulin, by turning on a protective type of fat called brown adipose tissue.”

Other known factors that may increase the likelihood of developing gestational diabetes include a BMI above 30, a family history of diabetes, previously having given birth to a baby weighing 4.5kg (10lbs) or more, or if you have developed the condition during a previous pregnancy. Those with South Asian, Chinese, African-Caribbean or Middle Eastern origins are also at higher risk.

For the mother, the condition’s symptoms can include a dry mouth, increased thirst, tiredness, and the need to urinate more often. For the unborn baby however, the consequences can be much more severe. Gestational diabetes can result in your baby growing larger than usual, which creates a number of knock-on issues. It can also lead to polyhydramnios, premature birth, pre-eclampsia, and low blood sugar and/or jaundice presenting in the baby. In rare cases, it may even result in the loss of your baby, known as stillbirth.

Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor in an attempt to expand his horizons.