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Physical Activity Linked to Lower Gestational Diabetes Risk in First-Time Mothers-to-Be

Physical activity in early pregnancy can lower the risk of gestational diabetes (GD) in first-time mothers-to-be, according to a new study appearing in JAMA Open Network. Around 7 percent of pregnant women in the US develop GD, which increases the long-term risk of type 2 diabetes and other conditions. Genetic risk factors associated with GD have been identified, but the impact of physical activity on developing the condition has not been assessed. To do so, a team led by scientists from Johns Hopkins University of Northeastern University examined a group of around 3,500 women participating in a broader study of nulliparous pregnancy outcomes. Participants were genotyped and self-reported total physical activity early on in their pregnancies. The researchers find that a high polygenic risk score and low level of physical activity were associated with increased risk of GD, while those with low risk scores and higher levels of physical activity had a significantly reduced risk of the disorder. The findings, the study's authors write, suggest that increased physical activity recommendations for pregnant women with a genetic predisposition may cut GD risk. Additionally, polygenic risk scores could be used to stratify high-risk pregnancies, which can then receive targeted interventions.