Girls in the United States and elsewhere are getting their periods earlier than ever (as early as 10 for many), which past research has linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, heart disease and depression later in life. Now, findings published in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggests that this early development could also be raising women’s risk for gestational diabetes once they become pregnant, Tech Times reports.

Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is one of the most common complications of pregnancy in the United States and occurs among up to 9.2 percent of American mothers, according to the most recent estimates. The condition is a form of high blood sugar that often occurs between  weeks 24 and 28 of pregnancy in women with no history of diabetes. GDM is linked to excessive birth weight, which can cause delivery complications, preterm birth and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) among newborns. GDM is more common among moms who are obese, have a history of blood sugar issues or suffer from prediabetes.

For this latest study on the condition, researchers collected health data from 4,749 women participating in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH) between 2000 and 2012. Researchers used a log-binomial regression analysis to determine participants’ probable risks for gestational diabetes based on a number of factors, such as age at first period, polycystic ovary syndrome, physical activity, body mass index (BMI) and several socioeconomic factors.

Findings showed that women who reported having their first periods when they were age 11 or younger were 50 percent more likely to develop gestational diabetes during their pregnancies compared with women who had their periods at age 13 or older. 

“Research into this topic is of particular public health importance due to global trends of girls starting their menstrual cycles at a younger age,” said Gita Mishra, PhD, director of the ALSWH and head of the epidemiology and biostatistics division at University of Queensland’s School of Public Health and a study author.

Scientists said these results might prompt doctors to begin asking women at what age their menstrual cycles started in order to learn their risk for gestational diabetes.

Did you know that young girls’ exposure to beauty products might delay or speed up the onset of puberty? Click here for more information.