Is the Biphasic Effect of Diabetes and Obesity on Fetal Growth a Risk Factor for Childhood Obesity?

Mireille N M van Poppel*, Peter Damm, Elisabeth R Mathiesen, Lene Ringholm, Cuilin Zhang, Gernot Desoye

*Corresponding author for this work


In pregnancies of women with obesity or diabetes, neonates are often overgrown. Thus, the pregnancy period in these women offers a window of opportunity to reduce childhood obesity by preventing neonatal overgrowth. However, the focus has been almost exclusively on growth in late pregnancy. This perspective article addresses possible growth deviations earlier in pregnancy and their potential contribution to neonatal overgrowth. This narrative review focuses on six large-scale, longitudinal studies that included ∼14,400 pregnant women with at least three measurements of fetal growth. A biphasic pattern in growth deviation, including growth reduction in early pregnancy followed by overgrowth in late pregnancy, was found in fetuses of women with obesity, gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), or type 1 diabetes compared with lean women and those with normal glucose tolerance. Fetuses of women with these conditions have reduced abdominal circumference (AC) and head circumference (HC) in early pregnancy (observed between 14 and 16 gestational weeks), while later in pregnancy they present the overgrown phenotype with larger AC and HC (from approximately 30 gestational weeks onwards). Fetuses with early-pregnancy growth reduction who end up overgrown presumably have undergone in utero catch-up growth. Similar to postnatal catch-up growth, this may confer a higher risk of obesity in later life. Potential long-term health consequences of early fetal growth reduction followed by in utero catch-up growth need to be explored.

Original languageEnglish
JournalDiabetes Care
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)1124-1131
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2023


  • Child
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1
  • Diabetes, Gestational
  • Female
  • Fetal Development
  • Humans
  • Pediatric Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk Factors


Dive into the research topics of 'Is the Biphasic Effect of Diabetes and Obesity on Fetal Growth a Risk Factor for Childhood Obesity?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this