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Gestational Diabetes

Gestational Diabetes Can Mean An Ongoing Health Risk

If you’ve had gestational diabetes, which occurs only during pregnancy and usually ends after the baby is born, you still need to monitor your condition.

Gestational diabetes affects up to 10 percent of pregnancies, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). The agency, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), aims to raise awareness that women with a history of gestational diabetes have a lifelong risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Recent results of the Hyperglycemia and Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes (HAPO) Follow-up Study, funded by NIDDK, found that women who had higher-than-normal blood glucose during pregnancy are significantly more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life than are women with normal blood glucose levels. And their baby may be affected as well because of an increased risk of obesity. (See “High Blood Sugar During Pregnancy Ups Risk of Mother’s Type 2 Diabetes, Child’s Obesity.”)

Women with prediabetes can avoid getting type 2 diabetes if they make healthy lifestyle choices.

Women with prediabetes, whose blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as diabetes, are also at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes if they developed gestational diabetes. But the good news is that these women can reduce their risk of progressing to type 2 diabetes if they make lifestyle changes leading to weight loss, or take metformin, the widely used diabetes medicine.

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The NIDDK recommends that women who have a history of gestational diabetes.

  • Get tested for diabetes within 12 weeks of giving birth.
  • Even if your diabetes goes away after birth, continue to get tested. If you have prediabetes, get tested for diabetes every year. If the test is normal, get tested every three years.
  • Keep up healthy habits after your child is born. Exercising and making good food choices can reduce or delay your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and can bring a lifetime of rewards.

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