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Siblings Key in Gestational Diabetes Risk

Jan 19, 2010

A family history of diabetes increases a woman’s risk of developing gestational diabetes, a new study confirms….

Dr. Catherine Kim of the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor and colleagues found that the risks associated with having a sibling who is diabetic are much higher than having one or even two parents with the disease.


It’s well known that a family history predisposes an individual to Type 2 diabetes, but little is known about how a woman’s family history affects her risk of developing gestational diabetes.

To investigate, Dr. Kim and her team looked at 4,566 women participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, all of whom had at least one child. Ninety-seven percent had never been diagnosed with diabetes, about 1% had gestational diabetes only, and 2% had Type 2 diabetes.

Having a parent with diabetes increased the likelihood of having diabetes or gestational diabetes to a similar degree, the researchers report. But while having two diabetic parents boosted the likelihood of having diabetes eight-fold, it only doubled the likelihood of gestational diabetes.

On the other hand, having a diabetic brother or sister increased gestational diabetes risk more than seven-fold, but only slightly upped the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

When the researchers accounted for early-life factors such as education and poverty, the risk associated with having a diabetic sibling actually increased. “Sibling-only history may be a greater risk factor than previously documented,” the authors say.

The findings suggest that gestational diabetes may follow a different pattern of inheritance than Type 2 diabetes, which is closely associated with being overweight or obese.

Further investigation of these patterns could help identify women who are at particularly high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes after gestational diabetes, the researchers add, and these women could be targets “for future prevention interventions.”

Am J Obstet Gynecol 2009;201:576e1-6.