Researchers looked at more than 27,000 women, and noted those who started menstruating at 11 years old had a 39 percent higher chance of developing the potentially dangerous pregnancy condition versus women whose periods began at 14. Getting your first period at age 12 and 13 carried a higher risk as well.
"This new finding could mean that doctors will begin asking women when they had their first period to determine their risk of developing gestational diabetes. They may represent a high-risk population and should be targeted for prevention programs," said study lead author Dr. Liwei Chen.
Gestational diabetes can lead to complications for both mother and baby, including large birth weight, and an increased risk for jaundice, hypoglycemia, breathing problems, and developing ADHD by age 6. We know obesity is a risk factor for developing gestational diabetes, and experiencing early puberty is linked to obesity in adulthood, but Dr. Chen says this doesn't fully explain the association. While good weight control before pregnancy might help reduce the gestational diabetes risk among those women, hormonal changes may also be to blame.
It's worth noting 92 percent of the test subjects in this study were white, so more research may be needed. But the conclusions do highlight a new risk factor for gestational diabetes, which, if diagnosed early and treated appropriately through diet, can be successfully managed, resulting in a healthy pregnancy and baby.
The takeaway: You can't control when you started puberty, but if it was early for you, and you're pregnant, talk to your doctor about controlling your other risk factors, namely your weight, and be sure to get tested!
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.