The research included more than 400 girls in California who were followed from 2005 to 2011, with annual visits to check their height, weight, body fat and abdominal obesity. The girls were between 6 and 8 years old at the start of the study. The researchers also examined the medical records of the girls' mothers.
Twenty-seven mothers developed gestational diabetes, according to the researchers. Girls whose mothers had gestational diabetes were 3.5 times more likely to be overweight later in childhood than those whose mothers did not have gestational diabetes, according to the study.
Daughters were 5.5 times more likely to become overweight if their moms had gestational diabetes and were overweight before pregnancy, the study found. The daughters were also more likely to have higher amounts of body fat as well as abdominal obesity, according to the researchers. These associations were independent of other factors known to influence overweight/obesity in girls, including race/ethnicity, having an obese mother, and stage of puberty, the study noted.
"Glucose [blood sugar] levels during pregnancy, particularly gestational diabetes, were associated with the girls being overweight, and this association was much stronger if the mother was also overweight before pregnancy," said study lead author Ai Kubo, an epidemiologist at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, Calif., in a Kaiser Permanente news release.
However, this study only found an association between a daughter's later weight and her mother's weight and diabetes status during pregnancy. It wasn't able to prove that these factors directly caused the girls to be overweight.
But the findings suggest that getting women to control their weight and improve their lifestyle before pregnancy may help reduce their children's risk of obesity, the researchers said.
Results of the study are published in the Oct. 23 issue of Diabetes Care.
The American Academy of Family Physicians outlines how to care for yourself and your baby during pregnancy.