Being diagnosed with gestational diabetes can be a shock, but it could also turn out to be a long-term boon for you and your baby.
Long-Term Risks To Moms And Babies
In many pregnancies affected by GDM, the baby absorbs the mother’s glucose and grows bigger than he or she should, and a Cesarean section is often necessary. in others, the baby is underdeveloped and has a low birth weight. Babies born to mothers with GDM may also have problems with breathing, low glucose levels or jaundice. After delivery, the mom’s blood sugar levels typically revert to normal, but according to a study of nearly 10,000 mother-child pairs, this may not be the end of the story for either mom or baby.
Researchers at Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore., and Hawaii found that the higher a mother’s blood sugar was during pregnancy, the more likely her baby would be overweight by age 7. “Quite a few studies have shown that if you’re overweight at ages 5 to 7, you’re much more likely to be overweight as an adult,” says endocrinologist Teresa Hillier, M.D., the study’s lead author. Hillier found an increased risk of childhood obesity even among GDM babies who weren’t large at birth. “To me, that suggests something has been metabolically changed that allows the baby to more easily store fat,” she says.
Among women diagnosed with GDM, 50 percent will develop type II diabetes within five to eight years, and 70 percent to 85 percent will develop the disease during their lifetimes, says Boyd E. Metzger, M.D., a professor of medicine and endocrinology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. The National Diabetes Education Program and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recently joined together to state that women who have GDM (as well as their children) should be followed closely after childbirth to monitor—and minimize—their risk of developing diabetes.
In addition, a 2012 study published in the journal Circulation found that having had GDM boosted a 50-year-old woman’s 10-year heart disease risk by 26 percent. Researchers suggest that women with GdM might need to have their blood pressure as well as their blood sugar checked more regularly as they get older.