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Gestational Diabetes May Be More Likely When Having a Boy

May 29, 2015

Study finds greater metabolic changes during pregnany with male fetus…

Previous studies have found an association between the sex of the fetus and gestational diabetes, however this is the largest study showing this link.
This population-based retrospective cohort studied the entire maternal population of Ontario with close to 643,000 women delivering their first child between April 2000 and March 2010. Insurance records were studied and only included births to a single baby.


Dr. Baiju Shah of the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre at the University of Toronto and study author, explained that gestational diabetes occurs due to a combination of underlying maternal metabolic abnormalities and the temporary metabolic changes during pregnancy. Findings from the four-year study suggest that being pregnant with a male fetus leads to even greater metabolic changes.

Findings showed an increased rate of gestational diabetes with the pregnancy of a male and also increased the risk of type 2 diabetes post-pregnancy. “Fetal sex emerges as a previously unrecognized factor associated with the natural history of maternal diabetic risk both after delivery and in a subsequent pregnancy.”

The conclusion of the study also indicates that in women with gestational diabetes there is a higher risk of early progression with the delivery of a girl whereas in women without gestational diabetes (GDM) in their first pregnancy, there is an increased risk of GDM in subsequent pregnancies with a male fetus.

This study does suggest a positive link between carrying a male fetus and the overall increased risk of GDM, however it does not suggest recurrence in a second pregnancy. Other risk factors need to be looked into in order to accurately identify a male fetus as a risk factor in itself for gestational diabetes.

Practice Pearls:

  • There may be an increased overall risk for gestational diabetes when carrying a male fetus.
  • In women with previous gestational diabetes, there is a higher risk of early progression to type 2 diabetes with the delivery of a female baby.
  • Fetal effects on women should be further studied in order to determine the possibility of other disease-related links.

Ravi Retnakaran. Fetal Sex and the Natural History of Maternal Risk of Diabetes During and After Pregnancy. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. Pub online May 20, 2015. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1210/jc.2015-1763