Precision stratification of prognostic risk factors associated with outcomes in gestational diabetes mellitus: a systematic review

Commun Med (Lond). 2024 Jan 12;4(1):9. doi: 10.1038/s43856-023-00427-1.


Background: The objective of this systematic review is to identify prognostic factors among women and their offspring affected by gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), focusing on endpoints of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and type 2 diabetes (T2D) for women, and cardiometabolic profile for offspring.

Methods: This review included studies published in English language from January 1st, 1990, through September 30th, 2021, that focused on the above outcomes of interest with respect to sociodemographic factors, lifestyle and behavioral characteristics, traditional clinical traits, and 'omics biomarkers in the mothers and offspring during the perinatal/postpartum periods and across the lifecourse. Studies that did not report associations of prognostic factors with outcomes of interest among GDM-exposed women or children were excluded.

Results: Here, we identified 109 publications comprising 98 observational studies and 11 randomized-controlled trials. Findings indicate that GDM severity, maternal obesity, race/ethnicity, and unhealthy diet and physical activity levels predict T2D and CVD in women, and greater cardiometabolic risk in offspring. However, using the Diabetes Canada 2018 Clinical Practice Guidelines for studies, the level of evidence was low due to potential for confounding, reverse causation, and selection biases.

Conclusions: GDM pregnancies with greater severity, as well as those accompanied by maternal obesity, unhealthy diet, and low physical activity, as well as cases that occur among women who identify as racial/ethnic minorities are associated with worse cardiometabolic prognosis in mothers and offspring. However, given the low quality of evidence, prospective studies with detailed covariate data collection and high fidelity of follow-up are warranted.

Plain language summary

Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) occurs when levels of sugar in the blood are high during pregnancy. We sought to identify factors associated with short- and long-term cardiometabolic disease risk, health conditions that involve heart-related issues and complications in bodily function, among women with GDM and their offspring. We reviewed publications on factors related to type 2 diabetes (T2D) and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk among women with GDM, and additionally assessed body composition in offspring of women with GDM. We found that GDM severity, maternal obesity, self-identified race/ethnicity, poor diet, and low physical activity levels predict postpartum T2D and CVD in the women, and unfavorable long-term cardiometabolic disease risk in offspring. The quality of evidence was poor, emphasizing a need for high-quality research capturing detailed short- and long-term outcome data to facilitate preventative interventions to improve health of women and children.