It is widely known and accepted that pregnant women who develop gestational diabetes are at a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes later on in life. People with type 2 diabetes have glucose levels that rise higher than average, and the effects of the condition are not pretty. People with diabetes are at a higher risk for stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, pancreas malfunction, and ketoacidosis.
Researchers are now discovering that even expectant women with blood sugar levels on the higher side, but not necessarily high enough to be classified as having gestational diabetes, are also at a higher risk for battling type 2 diabetes down the road. Dr. Boyd Metzger, a professor emeritus of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, and his team of researchers looked at data gathered from a national study that followed mothers and children ranging in ages from 10 to 14 years old. Results from the original research helped to prove that women with high blood sugar levels during pregnancy had increased complications in infants both during gestation and following their birth. The latest study dug deeper, looking at the long-term effects of blood sugar levels in mothers with gestational diabetes compared to those who didn’t have the condition.
The team discovered that the harms of even slightly elevated blood sugar levels extended for both mother and child and continued to be a risk for nearly a decade following the birthing experience. The newest findings showed that among women with increased blood sugar levels in pregnancy, 11 percent had type 2 diabetes within the decade following their child’s birth. An astonishing 42 percent of women had pre-diabetes, the findings showed. These findings were then compared with the group of women who did not have elevated blood sugar levels during their pregnancy. Of those women, only 2 percent of them developed type 2 diabetes, and 18 percent of that group was considered to be pre-diabetic.
When researchers studied some 4,800 children regarding their propensity to develop obesity during childhood, 19 percent of the children born to diabetic mothers were considered to be obese. Only 10% of the offspring born to mothers without the condition met the obesity threshold.
Gestational diabetes and high blood sugar levels during pregnancy are no fun, and clearly, carry risks for both the mother and baby. All expectant women can help to combat such conditions by living healthy lifestyles and checking in with their healthcare providers for regularly scheduled prenatal appointments.
by Kristin McCarthy