Most Women With Gestational Diabetes Are Making This Big Mistake

A new study finds that 75% of women with the condition don't follow up with a doctor postpartum. 

Women With Gestational Diabetes Not Following Up Stuart Jenner/Shutterstock

I'll never forget how I felt when I got a phone call from my doctor, telling me I had failed the one-hour glucose test, which screens for gestational diabetes. "You mean I have to go back to the clinic, drink that horrid drink, and get my blood drawn over the course of three hours for the follow-up?" I asked. Yep.

The day of my three-hour test, I guzzled the sugary-sweet concoction and lasted about five minutes before running to the bathroom to puke. I couldn't complete the test that day, but totally psyched myself up for the redo. Turns out, I passed by the skin of my teeth the second time around—but not all mamas-to-be are so lucky

According to the American Diabetes Association, up to 9.2% of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes. But a new study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology suggests that three quarters of these women don't get a necessary follow-up test within a year of giving birth. 

That's a huge problem, according to the study's lead author, Dr. Emma Morton-Eggleston of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute in Boston. "Women with a history of gestational diabetes have a much higher risk of developing diabetes, up to seven times higher over your lifetime,” she explained to Reuters Health. “The highest increases in risk are within 10 years of having gestational diabetes.”

Morton-Eggleston and her team studied 440,000 women who gave birth between 2000 and 2012. Of that number, 32,253 developed gestational diabetes—but only 25% of them got their blood sugar checked by a professional in the year after delivering their babies. 

So, if you have or have had gestational diabetes, what exactly should you do to follow up? Fit Pregnancy spoke with Noel Strong, MD, Assistant Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Science at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, for answers. "At six to 12 weeks postpartum, [women who were diagnosed with gestational diabetes] should undergo a diabetes screening test similar to the one they took in pregnancy," Dr. Strong advises. "Their glucose level will be checked after fasting for at least eight hours and then again two hours after drinking a glucose load. Abnormal values on this test can diagnose diabetes and pre-diabetes."

She continues, "If a woman is lucky enough to pass this test with normal values, she's still not off the hook. She should be screened for diabetes every one to three years with her primary care doctor throughout her life because of her elevated risk of developing diabetes—early detection can vastly improve outcomes. It may also be beneficial to her to maintain some of the healthy diet habits she adopted during her pregnancy to control her blood sugar as a means of prevention."

Related: Exercise Reduces Gestational Diabetes Risk