Is Global Warming to Blame for Your Gestational Diabetes?

Researchers in Canada have discovered a link that could have a devastating impact on maternal health worldwide.

bloodtestMaya Kruchankova/ShutterstockScientists have found yet another risk associated with climate change, and that is gestational diabetes.

According to a new study published in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association (CMAJ), as the temperature outside climbs, so too does a woman’s risk of gestational diabetes (GD), a type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy in women with no previous symptoms of diabetes. Like other types of diabetes, GD affects how the body uses sugar and results in high blood sugar, which can adversely affect the pregnancy, the health of the baby, and the health of the mother too. Symptoms of gestational diabetes include increased thirst, hunger, and urination, and blurred vision (all of which can be present in healthy pregnancies, which is why doctors routinely test for GD during pregnancy).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), GD affects nearly 10 percent of pregnancies in the United States. What causes gestational diabetes: The hormones in the placenta trigger insulin resistance, which interferes with the body’s ability to maintain healthy levels of blood sugar. Here’s where climate change makes things worse.

Scientists know that exposure to cold temperatures has been shown to be effective in treating insulin resistance. With climate change comes less and less exposure to cooler temperatures. So it’s not surprising that researchers from St. Michael’s Hospital, the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES), Mount Sinai Hospital, and the University of Toronto were moved to explore the connection between GD and the temperature outside.

In examining 555,0911 births to 396,828 women over a 12-year period (2002 to 2014), the researchers found that GD was diagnosed in nearly 8 percent of women exposed to hotter temperatures, compared to fewer than 5 percent in women exposed to very cold temperatures. “We observed a direct relationship between outdoor temperature and the risk of GD among nearly 400,000 women residing in a single urban area in Canada,” the study authors write. This could mean that “the worldwide number of GD cases might continue to increase” due to global warming, or climate change.

Although there is not much that we can do to cool the earth—besides doing our part to recycle and otherwise conserve energy, what pregnant women can do is to “modify the thermal environment,” which means lowering the setting on a home thermostat or spending more time outdoors in cooler weather.

Here are 8 little ways to go green without noticing.

Want to stay smart and healthy?

Get our weekly Health Reads newsletter

how we use your e-mail
We will use your email address to send you this newsletter. For more information please read our privacy policy.