There are no data on the metabolic consequences of post-term birth (≥42 weeks gestation). We hypothesized that post-term birth would adversely affect insulin sensitivity, as well as other metabolic parameters and body composition in childhood.
77 healthy pre-pubertal children, born appropriate-for-gestational-age were studied in Auckland, New Zealand: 36 born post-term (18 boys) and 41 (27 boys) born at term (38–40 weeks gestation). Primary outcome was insulin sensitivity measured using intravenous glucose tolerance tests and Bergman’s minimal model. Other assessments included fasting hormone concentrations and lipid profiles, body composition from whole-body dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring, and inflammatory markers.
Insulin sensitivity was 34% lower in post-term than in term children (7.7 vs. 11.6 x10 -4·min -1·(mU/l); p<0.0001). There was a compensatory increase in acute insulin response among post-term children (418 vs 304 mU/l; p=0.037), who also displayed lower glucose effectiveness than those born at term (2.25 vs 3.11 x10 -2·min -1; p=0.047). Post-term children not only had more body fat (p=0.014) and less fat-free mass (p=0.014), but also had increased central adiposity with more truncal fat (p=0.017) and greater android to gynoid fat ratio (p=0.007) compared to term controls. Further, post-term children displayed other markers of the metabolic syndrome: lower normal nocturnal systolic blood pressure dipping (p=0.027), lower adiponectin concentrations (p=0.005), as well as higher leptin (p=0.008) and uric acid (p=0.033) concentrations. Post-term boys (but not girls) also displayed a less favourable lipid profile, with higher total cholesterol (p=0.018) and LDL-C (p=0.006) concentrations, and total cholesterol to HDL-C ratio (p=0.048).
Post-term children have reduced insulin sensitivity and display a number of early markers of the metabolic syndrome. These findings could have important implications for the management of prolonged pregnancies. Future studies need to examine potential impacts later in life, as well as possible underlying mechanisms.