New research suggests that mothers with gestational diabetes might induce earlier onset of puberty in their female children.
What is gestational diabetes?
Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) prevalence is as high as 9.2% in the United States, a percentage that has increased significantly in recent decades1. A 2016 longitudinal study of obese women, women with GDM, and their daughters has shown that complications of GDM extend beyond pregnancy and can cause early puberty in daughters of women with GDM2.
Earlier onset of puberty is associated with increased prevalence of type 2 diabetes, insulin-resistance, and obesity. Incidentally, these conditions are also risk factors for GDM, meaning that daughters born to women with GDM are more likely to develop GDM in their own pregnancies.
The onset of puberty is identified by gonadarche (development of the ovaries), adrenarche (development of the adrenal glands), thelarche (the development of breasts), and pubarche (the development of pubic hair). The above study demonstrated that the daughters of obese women—especially those with GDM—displayed earlier pubarche than daughters of women with neither condition. Maternal obesity and GDM did not have a statistically-significant effect on the onset of the other hallmark signs of puberty.
Nevertheless, there is evidence that girls in the U.S. are entering puberty much earlier than in decades past. This may be due to environmental and socioeconomic risk factors after birth, but there is mounting evidence that prenatal environment is a significant contributing factor.
- DeSisto, C. et al. Prevalence Estimates of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus in the United States, Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS), 2007-2010. Chronic Dis. 2014; 11:130415.
- Kubo, A. et al. Associations Between Maternal Pregravid Obesity and Gestational Diabetes and Timing of Pubarche in Daugthers. Epidemiol. 2016; (184): 7-14.