1 in 10 pregnant women at risk of developing gestational diabetes

A recent report released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that as many as 1 in 10 pregnant women develop the complication of gestational diabetes. The researchers used the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System Questionnaire and state birth certificate records to compare rates of gestational diabetes from 2007-2008 to 2009-2010. They found that the prevalence rate of gestational diabetes in the United States is between 4.6 to 9.2 percent of all pregnancies, with no significant differences between the two time periods.

Gestational diabetes develops in pregnant women who haven’t had diabetes before, but who develop high blood sugar during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes can have negative effects on both mother and baby. The baby may be abnormally large, which may cause damage to the baby’s shoulders during birth. Large babies often aren’t able to be delivered vaginally and require a cesarean section – which has great risks for the mother. As they grow up, these babies are also more likely to develop pre-diabetes. Women who are diagnosed with gestational diabetes also have a higher likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes in the 5 to 10 years after pregnancy and delivery.

The exact causes of gestational diabetes aren’t yet known. One possible explanation is that the hormones from the placenta make it more difficult for the pregnant woman to use insulin properly, with more insulin being needed to process the sugar in her body. Obesity is also a risk factor for gestational diabetes, and has been linked to insulin resistance, resulting in rising blood sugar levels.

Treatment includes controlling diet and exercise. If these lifestyle changes don’t work, then medications such as insulin, can be used to lower the woman’s blood sugar.

Carla Desisto, one of the researchers on the report, argues that prevention is the best approach to reducing gestational diabetes:

“Preventing obesity is a key component of well woman care and diabetes prevention. Furthermore, maintaining a healthy weight throughout the reproductive years benefits women and improves the health of any future pregnancies.”

Dr. Alessandro Acosta, a neonatologist at Miami Children’s Hospital, encourages women who are thinking of becoming pregnant to make sure that they are eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly to reduce the likelihood of developing gestational diabetes when they become pregnant.


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