Sydney: Women who conceive babies in winter are more likely to develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy, increasing a range of risk factors for both the child and mother, researchers have found.
Gestational diabetes mellitus is a serious pregnancy complication characterised by inadequate blood sugar control in pregnancy.
Complications of gestational diabetes include excessive birth weight, pre-term birth, low blood sugar (which, in extreme cases, can lead to seizures in the baby), and developing Type 2 diabetes later in life.
"Our study is the first of its kind to find strong evidence of a relationship between gestational diabetes and the season in which a child is conceived," said lead author Petra Verburg from the University of Adelaide in Australia.
The study found that the incidences of pregnancies affected by gestational diabetes increased, with 4.9 percent of pregnancies affected in 2007, increasing to 7.2 percent in 2011.
Women who conceived in winter — 6.6 percent — were more likely to develop gestational diabetes during their pregnancy than women conceived in summer — 5.4 percent.
Previous studies have suggested that meteorological factors, physical activity, diet and vitamin D are risk factors for gestational diabetes, all of which are impacted by the winter season, the researchers noted.
However, "the mechanisms that cause gestational diabetes are still not fully understood," Verburg said, adding that future research should investigate factors that vary with season.
For the study, published in the journal BMJ Diabetes Research & Care, the team investigated more than 60,000 births in South Australia over a five-year period.