Risk Factors for Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM) in Subsequent Pregnancy Among Women Without GDM History in China: A Multicenter Retrospective Study : Maternal-Fetal Medicine

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Risk Factors for Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM) in Subsequent Pregnancy Among Women Without GDM History in China: A Multicenter Retrospective Study

Song, Geng1,2; Wei, Yumei1,2; Juan, Juan1,2; Su, Rina1,2; Yan, Jianying3; Xiao, Mei4; Zhao, Xianlan5; Zhang, Meihua6; Ma, Yuyan7; Liu, Haiwei8; Sun, Jingxia9; Hu, Kejia10; Yang, Huixia1,2,∗

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Maternal-Fetal Medicine 5(1):p 9-15, January 2023. | DOI: 10.1097/FM9.0000000000000150
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Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is one of the most common metabolic complications of pregnancy and has a high prevalence globally,1,2 especially in China.3,4 GDM is associated with many adverse outcomes for both mothers and offspring, not only in pregnancy but also in the long term.5–7 In China, after the implementation of the two-child policy in October 2015 and three-child policy in 2021, the prediction and prevention of GDM in multiparous women have become increasingly important, and identifying high-risk women is the first step. Many studies have shown that the recurrence rate of GDM is approximately 50%,8,9 so we consider that a history of GDM is a risk factor for GDM occurrence.10,11 However, women without GDM history accounts for the majority of multiparas, but whether they are at low risk of GDM in subsequent pregnancy is uncertain.12 Thus, we aimed to determine the incidence of GDM among women without a GDM history and whether their risk was actually low. We also aimed to identify the risk factors for GDM in subsequent pregnancy. Because few studies have addressed these knowledge gaps to date, we performed a multicenter retrospective cohort study to investigate the incidence of GDM among women without a GDM history and to identify the potential risk factors of GDM in subsequent pregnancy, with the goal of providing some references for the prediction and prevention of GDM.


Study design and subjects

This retrospective cohort study was performed at 18 research centers selected from the Chinese GDM Collaboration Group (Peking University First Hospital, Tianjin Central Hospital of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Hubei Maternal and Child Health Hospital, Fujian Maternal and Child Health Hospital, Jinan Maternal and Child Health Hospital, First affiliated Hospital of Zhengzhou University, Dalian Maternity Hospital, Taiyuan Maternal and Child Health Hospital Shanxi Province, Affiliated Hospital of Inner Mongolia Medical University, Peking University Shenzhen Hospital, Suzhou Kowloon Hospital, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, Huazhong University of Science and Technology Tongji Hospital, Qilu Hospital of Shandong University, Third affiliated Hospital of Zhengzhou University, Beijing Shunyi District Hospital, Hainan General Hospital, Harbin Medical University Fourth Hospital, Harbin Medical University First Hospital). These hospitals came from 14 provinces, 15 cities, three specialist hospitals, and 15 general hospitals, all of which were tertiary hospitals. The study was reviewed and approved by the Institutional Review Board of the Peking University First Hospital in 2013 (Reference number: 2013(578)). Because this is a retrospective study, the informed consent form is exempted from signing.

The inclusion criteria were all participants who had received prenatal care at the 18 hospitals and had two deliveries in same hospital, who delivered first time after 2011, and the second delivery was from January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2018. All participants have done oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) in subsequent pregnancy. The exclusion criteria were as follows: delivery before 28 weeks of gestation, known diabetes mellitus (DM) before index pregnancy, multiple pregnancy, and missing data on the major items. We enrolled 6204 women in the initial sample, 5180 women without GDM in the index pregnancy remained in the final analysis. Detailed information on the study population is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1:
Flow diagram of participant selection. DM: Diabetes mellitus; GDM: Gestational diabetes mellitus.

Quantitative variables for each pregnancy included age, height, prepregnancy body weight, weight before birth, 75-g OGTT results, fetal birth weight, and gestational age at delivery. We used 1 or 2 as the suffix of each variable: 1 for the index pregnancy and 2 for the subsequent pregnancy. Through calculations, we obtained data on the prepregnancy body mass index (BMI), gestational weight gain (GWG), and weight retention during the interval between the two pregnancies (prepregnancy body weight 2 minus prepregnancy bodyweight 1) and the length of the interdelivery interval (date of birth 2 minus date of birth 1).


The GDM diagnostic criteria followed the new guidelines established from 2011 in China,13 the same as the International Association of Diabetes and Pregnancy Study Groups (IADPSG) criteria. GDM was diagnosed when any one value met or exceeded 5.1 mmol/L at 0 h, 10.0 mmol/L at 1 h, or 8.5 mmol/L at 2 h in the OGTT at 24 to 28 weeks.

According to the standard of the Working Group on Obesity in China,14 the prepregnancy BMI categories were classified as follows: underweight, BMI <18.5 kg/m2; normal weight, 18.5 ≤ BMI < 24.0 kg/m2; overweight, 24.0 ≤ BMI < 28.0 kg/m2; and obese, BMI ≥28.0 kg/m2.

According to the Institute of Medicine,15 the guidelines for GWG during pregnancy were as follows: underweight women (BMI <18.5 kg/m2) should gain 12.5 to 18.0 kg; normal-weight women (18.5 ≤ BMI < 25.0 kg/m2) should gain 11.5 to 16.0 kg; overweight women (25.0 ≤ BMI < 30.0 kg/m2) should gain 7.0 to 11.5 kg; and obese women (BMI ≥30.0 kg/m2) should gain 5.0 to 9.0 kg. According to each BMI category, GWG below the lower limit was defined as inadequate weight gain, GWG above the upper limit was defined as excessive weight gain, and GWG within the limits was defined as adequate weight gain.

The area under the curve (AUC) of the time-blood glucose curve of the OGTT can be used as a measurement method of the severity of maternal hyperglycemia16; it approximately equals the areas of two trapezoids as follows: (0 h blood glucose + 1 h blood glucose) × 1/2 + (1 h blood glucose + 2 h blood glucose) × 1/2, which equals the following: 1 h blood glucose + (0 h blood glucose + 2 h blood glucose)/2.

Statistical analysis

SPSS 16.0 (SPSS, Inc., Chicago, IL, USA) was used for the statistical analysis. Continuous variables were presented as mean ± standard deviation (SD), and categorical variables were presented as number and percentage. Quantitative data conform to normal distribution. A univariate analysis of potential risk factors was performed using the Chi-squared test and/or t-test for qualitative or quantitative variables, respectively. Of these variables, associations with P values <0.1 were chosen to be included in the multivariate binary logistic regression model. The cut-off value of the AUC of the OGTT and predictive ability was studied by means of a receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve. P values <0.05 were considered statistically significant.


Primary analysis

In this study, 6204 women without DM before the index pregnancy enrolled in 18 research centers were included in the primary analysis. there were 1002 (1002/6204, 16.2%) women diagnosed with GDM and 5202 (5202/6204, 83.8%) women without GDM in index pregnancy. In subsequent pregnancy, there were 490 women diagnosed with GDM in women with GDM history, the incidence of GDM was 48.9% (490/1002), 835 women diagnosed with GDM in women without GDM history, the incidence of GDM was 16.1% (835/5202). The incidence of GDM (48.9% vs. 16.1%, odds ratio (OR)=5.01, 95% confidence interval (CI)=4.33–5.78, P<0.001) is significantly higher in women with GDM history than that in women without GDM history.

Demographic factors related to GDM in subsequent pregnancy

We focused on the 5180 women who had no GDM history in index pregnancy and no DM in subsequent pregnancy. Table 1 shows the participant characteristics assessed during the two pregnancies classified by non-GDM or GDM, based on the blood glucose values of the subsequent pregnancy. We found that the GDM group was older than the non-GDM group at both the index pregnancy (28.9±3.2 years vs. 28.1±3.2 years, P<0.001) and subsequent pregnancy (32.6±3.3 years vs. 31.6±3.4 years, P<0.001) and that the percentage of women over 35 years old was higher in the GDM group. There were more overweight and obese women in the GDM group than the non-GDM group at subsequent pregnancy (33.3% vs. 20.8%, P<0.001), and this difference was also evident and significant at the index pregnancy (23.0% vs. 16.4%, P<0.001). The GWG at index pregnancy was not different between the GDM and non-GDM groups, but the mean GWG was lower in the GDM group than in the non-GDM group at subsequent pregnancy (12.6±4.8 kg vs. 13.9±4.9 kg, P<0.001).

Table 1 - Characteristics of the women with and without GDM at subsequent pregnancy.
Variables n Non-GDM n GDM t/χ 2 P
Maternal age 1 (years) 4344 28.1±3.2 835 28.9±3.2 –6.374* <0.001
 ≥35 109 (2.5) 36 (4.3) 8.368 0.004
Maternal age 2 (years) 4344 31.6±3.4 835 32.6±3.3 –7.731* <0.001
 ≥35 757 (17.4) 225 (26.9) 40.691 <0.001
Prepregnancy BMI 1 (kg/m2) 3582 21.3±3.0 718 21.9±3.1 –4.912* <0.001
 ≥24 586 (16.4) 165 (23.0) 18.043 <0.001
Prepregnancy BMI 2 (kg/m2) 3538 21.8±3.1 715 23.1±3.4 –9.245* <0.001
 ≥24 736 (20.8) 238 (33.3) 52.016 <0.001
GWG 1 (kg) 3516 15.3±5.5 710 15.3±5.0 0.003* 0.998
 Inadequate 631 (17.9) 115 (16.2)
 Adequate 1294 (36.8) 243 (34.2) 4.509 0.105
 Excessive 1591 (45.3) 352 (49.6)
GWG 2 (kg) 3196 13.9±4.9 584 12.6±4.8 6.098* <0.001
 Inadequate 732 (22.9) 172 (29.5)
 Adequate 1293 (40.5) 205 (35.1) 12.619 0.002
 Excessive 1171 (36.6) 207 (35.4)
Gestational age at delivery 1 (weeks) 4261 39.4±1.5 824 39.3±1.6 2.094* 0.036
Gestational age at delivery 2 (weeks) 4335 39.0±1.4 832 38.9±1.2 1.464* 0.143
Infant birth weight 1 (g) 4261 3324.0±448.0 824 3392.8±508.0 –3.626* <0.001
 Macrosomia 1 265 (6.2) 88 (10.7) 21.265 <0.001
Infant birth weight 2 (g) 4342 3359.2±444.3 835 3389.0±449.6 –1.772* 0.076
 Macrosomia 2 304 (7.0) 69 (8.3) 1.668 0.196
Weight retention (kg) 3410 1.5±5.9 690 3.1±5.9 –6.588* <0.001
IDI (year) 4345 3.5±1.4 835 3.7±1.3 –4.148* <0.001
Data are presented as the mean ± SD for parametric variables and as n (%) for categorical variables.
We use 1 or 2 as the suffix of each variable; 1 represents the index pregnancy, and 2 represents the subsequent pregnancy.
*t value.
BMI: Body mass index; GDM: Gestational diabetes mellitus; GWG: Gestational weight gain; IDI: Interdelivery interval; SD: Standard deviation.

There was little difference in the gestational age at delivery between the groups in the index pregnancy (39.4±1.5 weeks vs. 39.3±1.6 weeks, P=0.036). The neonate birth weight was higher in the GDM group than in the non-GDM group at index pregnancy (3392.8±508.0 g vs. 3324.0±448.0 g, P<0.001), and a difference in the rate of macrosomia was evident only in the index pregnancy (10.7% vs. 6.2%, P<0.001) but not in the subsequent pregnancy (8.3% vs. 7.0%, P=0.196). The GDM group had higher weight retention than the non-GDM group (3.1±5.9 kg vs. 1.5±5.9 kg, P<0.001). The interdelivery interval was slightly longer in the GDM group than that in the non-GDM group.

OGTT and GDM in subsequent pregnancy

The results of our comparisons of the blood glucose values at each time point of the OGTT showed that the GDM group had higher values at each point than the non-GDM group in both index pregnancy (fasting 4.53±0.35 mmol/L vs. 4.39±0.36 mmol/L, 1 h 7.82±1.25 mmol/L vs. 7.28±1.32 mmol/L, 2 h 6.65±1.01 mmol/L vs. 6.22±1.01 mmol/L, P<0.001) and subsequent pregnancy (fasting 5.03±0.50mmol/L vs. 4.40±0.37 mmol/L, 1 h 9.16±1.67 mmol/L vs. 7.29±1.33 mmol/L, 2 h 7.78±1.42 mmol/L vs. 6.29±1.00mmol/L, P<0.001). The AUC of the OGTT showed similar trends (13.41±1.58 mmol·h/L vs. 12.58±1.68 mmol·h/L, P<0.001 in index pregnancy, 15.56±2.02 mmol·h/L vs. 12.64±1.71 mmol·h/L, P<0.001 in subsequent pregnancy) (Table 2). The ROC curve was drawn between the AUC of the OGTT in the index pregnancy and GDM in the subsequent pregnancy, and the cut-off value of 12.6 mmol·h/L ensured the best sensitivity and specificity of 70.1% and 50.6%, respectively (area under the ROC curve 0.638, 95% CI: 0.616–0.660, P<0.001).

Table 2 - Comparison of metabolic variables between the non-GDM and GDM groups.
Variables n Non-GDM n GDM t P
OGTT 1 (mmol/L)
 Fasting 3783 4.39±0.36 718 4.53±0.35 –10.093 <0.001
 1 h 3770 7.28±1.32 715 7.82±1.25 –10.415 <0.001
 2 h 3765 6.22±1.01 715 6.65±1.01 –10.497 <0.001
OGTT 2 (mmol/L)
 Fasting 4345 4.40±0.37 835 5.03±0.50 –34.502 <0.001
 1 h 4345 7.29±1.33 835 9.16±1.67 –30.596 <0.001
 2 h 4345 6.29±1.00 835 7.78±1.42 –28.833 <0.001
AUC of OGTT 1 (mmol·h/L) 3759 12.58±1.68 713 13.41±1.58 –12.671 <0.001
AUC of OGTT 2 (mmol·h/L) 4345 12.64±1.71 835 15.56±2.02 –39.166 <0.001
Data are presented as the mean±SD for parametric variables.
We use 1 or 2 as the suffix of each variable; 1 represents the index pregnancy, and 2 represents the subsequent pregnancy.
AUC: Area under the curve; GDM: Gestational diabetes mellitus; OGTT: Oral glucose tolerance test; SD: Standard deviation.

Independent risk factors of GDM in subsequent pregnancy

As shown in Table 3, four variables became independent risk factors for GDM in the multivariate analysis: age at subsequent pregnancy, blood glucose value during index pregnancy, macrosomia history, and weight retention. We used two models to describe the blood glucose value during index pregnancy, as the blood glucose value in OGTT in model 1, and the AUC of OGTT 1 ≥12.6mmol·h/L in model 2. In model 1, women who were more than 35 years old had a 1.5-fold increased risk of GDM compared with women <35 years old in subsequent pregnancy (OR=1.540, 95% CI=1.257–1.886, P<0.001). Although the blood glucose level during the index pregnancy did not meet the diagnostic criteria for GDM, each value for OGTT 1 had an independent and significant effect on the GDM diagnosis at subsequent pregnancy; among them, fasting blood glucose had the most significant effect (OR=2.487, 95% CI=1.883–3.285, P<0.001). Women who gave birth to infants with macrosomia in the index pregnancy had a 1.7-fold increased risk of GDM in the subsequent pregnancy compared with women who gave birth to infants without macrosomia in the index pregnancy (OR=1.749, 95% CI=1.277–2.395, P=0.001). As weight retention increased by 1 kg, the incidence of GDM in the subsequent pregnancy increased by 5% (OR=1.052, 95% CI=1.035–1.068, P<0.001). In model 2, when we used the AUC of the OGTT to represent the blood glucose level of each point, women whose AUCs of OGTT 1 were more than 12.6 mmol·h/L had a 2.0-fold increased risk of GDM compared with women whose AUCs of OGTT 1 were less than 12.6 mmol·h/L (OR=2.040, 95% CI=1.687–2.467, P<0.001).

Table 3 - Multivariate analysis of the risk factors for GDM.
Variables β P OR 95% CI
Model 1
Maternal age 2 ≥35 years 0.432 <0.001 1.540 1.257–1.886
OGTT 1 (mmol/L)
 Fasting 0.911 <0.001 2.487 1.883–3.285
 1 h 0.133 0.002 1.142 1.051–1.241
 2 h 0.255 <0.001 1.290 1.162–1.432
Macrosomia 1 0.559 0.001 1.749 1.277–2.395
Weight retention (kg) 0.050 <0.001 1.052 1.035–1.068
 Constant –8.580 <0.001 0.000
Model 2
Maternal age 2 ≥35 years 0.500 <0.001 1.649 1.350–2.014
AUC of OGTT 1 ≥12.6 mmol×h/L 0.713 <0.001 2.040 1.687–2.467
Macrosomia 1 0.590 <0.001 1.805 1.321–2.464
Weight retention (kg) 0.051 <0.001 1.052 1.036–1.068
 Constant –2.310 <0.001 0.099
AUC: Area under the curve; CI: Confidence interval; GDM: Gestational diabetes mellitus; OGTT: Oral glucose tolerance test; OR: Odds ratio.


This hospital-based retrospective study demonstrated that the frequency of GDM in subsequent pregnancy was 16.1% among women without GDM history. Independent risk factors for GDM were older age at subsequent pregnancy, macrosomia history, higher OGTT value during index pregnancy, and higher weight retention.

One of the key features of this study was that, to our knowledge, this is the first to report the frequency and risk factors of GDM in subsequent pregnancy among women without a GDM history according to the IADPSG 2011 GDM diagnostic criteria. We chose 2011 as starting point for our study because the National Health and Family Planning Commission of China adopted testing and diagnostic criteria based on the IADPSG guidelines in 2011.13 Therefore, the GDM diagnostic criteria adopted by all hospitals in this study are consistent. Young et al.12 found that women with a normal glucose value in an index pregnancy are at minimal risk (<1%) of having GDM in a subsequent singleton pregnancy within 4 years. However, the normal glucose value was obtained via a screening test with 50 g of glucose in a “glucola” beverage (≤140 mg/dL), which is different from the diagnostic methodology used in our study; some women with hyperglycemia could be missed when screening is performed only with the glucola beverage and without the 75-g OGTT.

Another advantage of our study is that the large sample size of subjects (5180 women) comprised patients from 18 hospitals in 14 provinces and 15 cities in China, allowing a representative group of multiparous women in China. After the implementation of the two-child policy in October 2015 and three-child policy in 2021, an increasing number of women had a second or third child. Therefore, researchers have begun to pay more attention to multiparous women since 2015 because this group is older, has a higher BMI, and has more pregnancy complications.

Macrosomia is considered a high-risk factor for GDM. Lee et al.17 found that Asian women with a history of previous GDM or macrosomia should receive additional attention as high-risk cases for GDM in pregnancy. The AUC of the OGTT is mainly used to evaluate the blood glucose status of patients with diabetes. Zhang et al.18 found that the AUC had a significant impact on the outcomes of women with GDM, especially on macrosomia, and they also found that women with an AUC higher than 14.20mmol·h/L had a higher risk of adverse outcomes regardless of the presence of GDM.16 Our study revealed that the fasting, 1-h and 2-h glucose concentrations of the OGTT in the index pregnancy have independent significant effects on GDM in subsequent pregnancy, and it would be acceptable to state that the blood glucose level during the index pregnancy is related to GDM in subsequent pregnancy. We found that to predict the risk of GDM in subsequent pregnancy, the cut-off point of AUC needed to be 12.6mmol·h/L in the index pregnancy; thus, this method would a useful tool for predicting GDM risks in clinical work.

Two results in this study seemed to be inconsistent with our expectations. The first was that in subsequent pregnancy, GWG in the GDM group was lower than that in the non-GDM group (12.6±4.8 kg vs. 13.9±4.9 kg). The second was that the rates of macrosomia in the index pregnancy were significantly different between the GDM group and the non-GDM group (10.7% vs. 6.2%), but the difference became nonsignificant in the subsequent pregnancy (8.3% vs. 7.0%). These findings may be related to the systematic management of women with GDM in these hospitals. The IPD meta-analysis19 noted that various interventions based on diet and physical activity during pregnancy reduce GWG. The leading hospital in this study, The First Hospital of Peking University, had set up a GDM daycare clinic in 2011 to educate women with GDM on diet and exercise. We provide specific suggestions on the weight gain of pregnant women according to information on height, weight, age, and gestational age. For women with abnormal weight gain, we perform nutritional assessments and provide nutritional and exercise guidance and suggestions. In recent years, other hospitals in the Chinese GDM Collaboration Group have adopted the daycare clinic model to manage women with GDM and have achieved significant effects. The macrosomia rates in the GDM group and the non-GDM group were 8.3% and 7.0%, respectively, which were similar to the data (8.4% and 6.64%, respectively) from Peking University Prior Hospital from 2011 to 2013.20

In the future clinical work, we propose that a multipara without GDM history should be screened for high risk factors of GDM in early pregnancy. Women who are more than 35 years old, with macrosomia history, AUC of OGTT ≥12.6 mmol·h/L in index pregnancy, weight retention ≥1kg, should be provided early diet and exercise guidance to reduce the risk of GDM. Some hospitals have antenatal clinics, which conduct a comprehensive assessment for women of childbearing age. At this time, guidance can also be given to multiparas with high-risk factors of GDM.

Some potential limitations are worth mentioning. This was a retrospective study, and some of the information was not available in the medical records; thus, there may be an inevitable risk of selection bias. Data on other risk factors, such as family history of diabetes mellitus, were not available, and these factors were not evaluated in our study.


In summary, women without a GDM history are still at risk of GDM in subsequent pregnancy. Risk factors for GDM, including age, macrosomia history, OGTT value, AUC of OGTT in index pregnancy, and weight retention, can be evaluated before or at the early stage of a subsequent pregnancy. Early warning and intervention are needed for high-risk women.


The authors would like to thank all the research staff of the 18 hospitals for their excellent contribution to the completion of the study protocol.


The study was supported by grants from the National Program on Basic Research Project of China (2019FY101005 to Geng Song), the World Diabetes Foundation (No. WDF 10-517 and No. WDF 14-908 to Huixia Yang) and Scientific Research Seed Fund of Peking University First Hospital (2018SF046 to Geng Song).

Author Contributions

G.S. analyzed the data and wrote the manuscript. J.Y.Y., M.X., X.L.Z., M.H.Z., Y.Y.M., H.W.L., J.X.S., and K.J.H. contributed to the data collection. H.X.Y., G.S., R.N.S., and Y.M.W. contributed to the study design and implementation. G.S. and J.J. contributed to the interpretation of the data analyses. H.X.Y. revised the manuscript. All authors contributed to the critical interpretation of the results, reviewed the manuscript and approved the final version for publishing. G.S. is the guarantor of this work and, as such, had full access to all the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.

Conflicts of Interest


Editor Note

Huixia Yang is the Editor-in-Chief of Maternal-Fetal Medicine. The article was subject to the journal’s standard procedures, with peer review handled independently of this editor and her research groups.

Data Availability

The datasets generated during and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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Diabetes, gestational; Without GDM history; Risk factors; Subsequent pregnancy

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