Gestational diabetes is an increasingly common pregnancy complication and can have long-lasting health consequences for mothers and their children.
Early puberty in girls had now been shown to be a significant marker for several adverse health outcomes, including gestational diabetes, said Gita Mishra, professor at University of Queensland.
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"Research into this topic is of particular public health importance due to global trends of girls starting their menstrual cycles at a younger age," Mishra said.
The significant association with gestational diabetes risk remained even after researchers took into account body mass index and childhood, reproductive and lifestyle factors.
For the study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, the team analysed data from more than 4,700 women and found a higher number of women who reported having their first period at a younger age had later developed gestational diabetes.
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"The finding could mean that health professionals will start asking women when they had their first period to identify those at higher risk of gestational diabetes," said Danielle Schoenaker, researcher at University of Queensland.
A large number of women who develop diabetes during pregnancy are overweight or obese. Encouraging those who have early puberty to control their weight before pregnancy may help to lower their risk of gestational diabetes, Schoenaker said.