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NIH study finds link between depression, gestational diabetes

Depression early in pregnancy may increase risk for gestational diabetes, and diabetes increases risk for postpartum depression, according to researchers.

By
Stephen Feller
The two-way link between depression and gestational diabetes increases risk for both in women who have either, according to researchers at the National Institutes of Health. Photo by wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock
The two-way link between depression and gestational diabetes increases risk for both in women who have either, according to researchers at the National Institutes of Health. Photo by wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock

BETHESDA, Md., Sept. 19 (UPI) -- Depression in early pregnancy doubles the risk for gestational diabetes, and gestational diabetes increases risk for postpartum depression, according to a recent study.

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health found the significant two-way link between depression and diabetes during pregnancy, suggesting that doctors pay particular attention to patients with either condition.

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Although the study does not show a cause and effect relationship between the conditions, NIH researchers note that previous studies have linked depression and impaired glucose metabolism, which leads to higher blood sugar levels, and higher blood sugar levels often lead to inflammation and hormonal changes linked to symptoms of depression.

For the study, published in the journal Diabetologia, researchers analyzed data on 2,477 pregnant women who participated in the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Fetal Growth Studies-Singleton cohort between 2009 and 2013.

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The women, none of whom had psychiatric disorders, diabetes or other chronic conditions before becoming pregnant, were assessed for depression in the first and second trimesters, followed throughout their pregnancy. The 162 who developed gestational diabetes were followed up with six weeks after giving birth.

Women with depression in the first or second trimester were 1.72 times more likely to develop gestational diabetes, a risk that was stronger for women who were not obese before pregnancy than those who were. The risk for gestational diabetes was higher among women with stronger symptoms of depression during either trimester. Gestational diabetes was also linked to 4.62 times the risk of postpartum depression.

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"Our data suggest that depression and gestational diabetes may occur together," Dr. Stefanie Hinkle, a staff scientist in the Division of Intramural Population Health Research at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, said in a press release. "Until we learn more, physicians may want to consider observing pregnant women with depressive symptoms for signs of gestational diabetes. They also may want to monitor women who have had gestational diabetes for signs of postpartum depression."

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