It may be the most wonderful experience of a woman's life, but pregnancy may also increase risk factors for diabetes, according to a new study.
And, perhaps not surprisingly, those women who have diabetes during pregnancy - known as gestational diabetes - seem to be at even greater risk.
The link between diabetes and pregnancy has been unclear, but researchers have suspected that some of the weight gain and relatively sedentary lifestyle that is associated with pregnancy for many women might put them at risk for diabetes.
Specifically, study author Dr. Erica P. Gunderson and colleagues were looking for evidence of metabolic syndrome, a condition in which people have abnormal cholesterol, high blood pressure, and are overweight, among other symptoms, and which has been linked to a higher risk of diabetes.
The team, from the Division of Research at Kaiser Permanente Northern California in Oakland, studied 1451 women (61 percent white, 39 percent black), between the ages of 18 and 30.
Over the course of 20 years beginning in 1985, 359 became pregnant, and 259 developed metabolic syndrome. That meant about a one percent per year chance of developing the syndrome overall, according to their report in the August issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
After adjusting for factors including physical activity, researchers found that a single healthy pregnancy without gestational diabetes raised the risk of metabolic syndrome about 30 percent, while two or more healthy pregnancies raised the risk about 60 percent.
The risks were much greater for women who had gestational diabetes, which more than doubled the risk of metabolic syndrome.
The authors suggest that screening women for diabetes risk factors following pregnancy might be warranted.