Girls Who Menstruate Early at Risk of Gestational Diabetes

The author suggested that it was more important to understand the hormonal changes behind the early onset of menstruation and associated weight gain.

A study from Australia has found a link between an early start to menstruation and developing gestational diabetes.

The study from the University of Queensland, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, analyzed data from 4700 women taking part in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health. Researchers found that those who had their first period at age 11 or younger were 50% more likely to develop gestational diabetes than those who had their first period at age 13.

“The finding could mean that health professionals will start asking women when they had their first period to identify those at risk of gestational diabetes,” said Danielle Schoenaker, MSc, the study’s lead author, in a statement. In Australia, where Schoenaker is doing her research, 1 in 4 children is overweight or obese, and her findings only add to the evidence that healthy eating and exercise should be a priority.

Gestational diabetes is rising worldwide, increasing complications in pregnancy and creating long-lasting complications for mothers. It has been linked to depression and can cause problems for both mother and baby during labor and delivery.

With this study, gestational diabetes is now among of a growing list of adverse health outcomes linked to the early onset of menstruation, with early pregnancy being another.

“A large proportion of women who develop diabetes during pregnancy are overweight or obese, and encouraging those with an early start of puberty to control their weight before pregnancy may help to lower their risk of gestational diabetes,” Schoenaker said.

Being overweight or having diabetes going into pregnancy produces its own risks. A recent study found obese women with diabetes were 4 times more likely to have children who developed autism.

Schoenaker emphasized that it was important to not simply look at the increased weight but the hormonal changes that may be at the root of both weight gain and early menstruation. “The research calls for more studies to investigate the mechanisms behind this.”

Reference

Schoenaker DAJM, Mishra GD. Association between age at menarche and gestational diabetes mellitus. Am J Epidemiol. 2017; DOI: 10.1093/aje/kww201.