SSM Health Medical Minute: Gestational Diabetes is linked to outdoor temperatures

Gestational diabetes is a temporary condition that can develop in pregnant females during the second trimester, occurring when the mother’s body does not produce enough insulin and thus cannot process glucose into energy. While the precise cause for gestational diabetes is unknown, a new research study suggests a rise in outdoor air temperature can put pregnant women at a greater risk for developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy.

High blood glucose levels can be harmful to the mother and unborn baby, and can raise the baby’s risk for excessive birth weight, preterm birth, and type 2 diabetes later in life. In contrast, cold temperatures are believed to improve the body’s ability to produce insulin.

Dr. William Holcomb, OB/GYN at SSM Health St. Joseph Hospital says this study is no reason for alarm, they should focus on the more serious risks for developing gestational diabetes which are body weight and family history. “There's not much you can do about the ambient temperature, I wouldn't invest a bit of worry in that, what I would focus on is, Do I have a good diet and am I exercising regularly, and am I taking good care of myself.”

It’s recommended that pregnant women avoid prolonged outdoor activity during hot summer months, remain in an air-conditioned environment, and dress in cool clothing. Other strategies women can follow to protect themselves from gestational diabetes include maintaining a healthy body weight before conception, avoiding excess weight gain during pregnancy, consuming a healthy diet and staying physically active. These strategies are especially important for women who have existing risk factors for gestational diabetes, family history of type 2 diabetes, or have had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy. They are encouraged to consult with their physician about their individual risk factors.

To find out more about gestational diabetes, click here.