Diabetes in pregnancy a risk
Posted: Wednesday, February 2, 2011 8:01 pm
By L. NEERGAARD
AP Medical Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — A type of diabetes that strikes during pregnancy may disappear at birth, but it remains a big red flag for moms’ future health — one that too many seem to be missing.
Roughly half of women who’ve had gestational diabetes — the pregnancy kind — go on to develop full-fledged Type 2 diabetes in the months to years after their child’s birth.
Yet new research shows fewer than one in five of those women returns for a crucial diabetes test within six months of delivery. That’s the first of the checkups they’re supposed to have every few years to guard against diabetes’ return, but no one knows how many do.
The research, by testing-lab giant Quest Diagnostics, is sobering because if they only knew, many of these new mothers could take steps to reduce their chances of later-in-life diabetes that can bring with it such complications as heart disease and kidney damage.
“It’s almost as if you got a preview … a window to the future,” says Dr. Ann Albright, a diabetes specialist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And more mothers-to-be soon may join the ranks.
The American Diabetes Association is recommending a change in how pregnant women are tested that will identify more mild cases than today, based on some recent studies that found treating even those mothers leads to easier deliveries. If obstetricians eventually sign on, it has the potential to double diagnoses — although most mild cases would need only better nutrition and exercise, not diabetes medications, the association cautions.
New CDC estimates show nearly 26 million Americans have some form of diabetes, the vast majority of them the Type 2 kind that’s linked to being overweight. Tens of millions more have high enough blood sugar to be classified as pre-diabetic.
Women can have either Type 2 diabetes or the insulin-dependent Type 1 variety at the time they become pregnant.
That’s a separate issue, and those women are urged to have their diabetes tightly controlled to avoid a range of risks to baby and mother.
But according to the CDC, somewhere between 2 percent and 10 percent of pregnant women develop diabetes for the first time during pregnancy, the gestational type.
If untreated, the mother’s high blood sugar can make the fetus grow too large, leading to C-sections and early deliveries.
It also can trigger a potentially life-threatening condition called preeclampsia.