Inflammation in maternal obesity and gestational diabetes mellitus

Placenta. 2015 Jul;36(7):709-15. doi: 10.1016/j.placenta.2015.04.006. Epub 2015 Apr 28.


Background: The prevalence of maternal obesity is rising rapidly worldwide and constitutes a major obstetric problem, increasing mortality and morbidity in both mother and offspring. Obese women are predisposed to pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), and children of obese mothers are more likely to develop cardiovascular and metabolic disease in later life. Maternal obesity and GDM may be associated with a state of chronic, low-grade inflammation termed "metainflammation", as opposed to an acute inflammatory response. This inflammatory environment may be one mechanism by which offspring of obese women are programmed to develop adult disorders.

Methods: Herein we review the evidence that maternal obesity and GDM are associated with changes in the maternal, fetal and placental inflammatory profile.

Results: Maternal inflammation in obesity and GDM may not always be associated with fetal inflammation.

Conclusion: We propose that the placenta 'senses' and adapts to the maternal inflammatory environment, and plays a central role as both a target and producer of inflammatory mediators. In this manner, maternal obesity and GDM may indirectly program the fetus for later disease by influencing placental function.

Keywords: Cytokines; Gestational diabetes mellitus; Metainflammation; Obesity; Placenta.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • C-Reactive Protein / analysis
  • Diabetes, Gestational*
  • Female
  • Fetal Diseases / etiology
  • Humans
  • Immune System / physiopathology
  • Inflammation / complications*
  • Inflammation / embryology
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Interleukin-6 / blood
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Placenta / physiopathology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / blood


  • Interleukin-6
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • C-Reactive Protein