According to researchers at the University of Queensland, girls who get their first period at age 11 or younger are 50 per cent more likely to develop gestational diabetes than those who start their periods at age 13 or later.
(Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that happens during pregnancy, Diabetes Canada explains. A woman’s body is unable to produce enough insulin to handle hormone level changes.)
“This 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,” says Danielle Schoenaker, co-author of the study, in a statement.
Schoenaker and her team examined data from more than 4,700 women from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health when they discovered the possible correlation.
The association still existed even after the team took into account body mass index (BMI) and childhood, reproductive and lifestyle factors.
“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 says.
The research was published Sunday in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
This isn’t the first time a link between the two has been found.
Last year, Clemson University researchers followed more than 27,000 women and found that girls who started at age 11 or earlier were at a 39 per cent higher risk of developing gestational diabetes than girls who started at age 14 or later.
They also found early menstruation was associated with obesity in adulthood, another risk factor often associated with gestational diabetes.
Another 2016 study found that gestational diabetes also has an effect on babies.
According to Imperial College London, babies of mothers with gestational diabetes tend to have more body fat at two months of age compared to babies born to healthy mothers.
Researchers were not able to find a reason as to why this was, but they speculate that a mother’s gestational diabetes may be able to change the baby’s metabolism while in the womb.
Diabetes Canada says that babies born from mothers with gestational diabetes will not be born with diabetes. If left untreated, however, it can lead to high blood pressure for the mother and increase the risk of the baby weighing more than nine pounds, resulting in a difficult delivery.
Risk factors associated with gestational diabetes include being over the age of 35, obese and from a high-risk group (Aboriginal, Hispanic, South Asian, Asian and African). Other risk factors include pre-diabetes and a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes.
As of 2010, the rate of gestational diabetes in Canada (except Quebec) is 54.5 per 1,000 deliveries, the Government of Canada reports.