Long Term Impacts of Gestational Diabetes

Rebecca McPhee
Dietitian Member of the DAA


2 Minutes

Pregnancy is a time that is full of joy and excitement, coupled with a range of new experiences and a greater focus on your health.  This focus becomes even more so if you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes.  So what does it mean to be diagnosed with gestational diabetes, and what are the long term impacts on you and your baby's health?  

 

What is gestational diabetes?  

Gestational diabetes (sometimes called GDM) occurs during pregnancy when the hormones produced by the placenta block the action of a women's insulin in regulating blood sugar levels.  Irregular blood sugar levels can lead to some complications including early labour, bigger babies and high blood pressure for mums - among others.

Gestational diabetes usually occurs around the 24th to 28th week of pregnancy and goes away when the baby is born; however, research shows that women who have had gestational diabetes are 50% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life. Further, if you have gestational diabetes in your first pregnancy, you have a 30-69% chance of it recurring in future pregnancies.

The good news is that in most cases, gestational diabetes can be managed to ensure a healthy mum and bub.  

 

How common is diabetes during pregnancy? 

Gestational diabetes is the fastest-growing type of diabetes in Australia, affecting thousands of pregnant women. About one in every seven Australian women have gestational diabetes during pregnancy, and in Canberra, the rates are higher.

 

Long term risks of gestational diabetes for mums 

Research shows that women with gestational diabetes have a higher risk of developing health problems later in life. The risk of developing type 2 diabetes is 50% higher in women who have had gestational diabetes.  

While type 2 diabetes can be managed, it can dramatically increase the risk of heart disease , stroke and high blood pressure. It can also damage vital nerve pathways, be a factor in irreversible kidney disease and can play a role in hearing and sight impairment and skin healing.

 

Long term risks of gestational diabetes for babies 

Many babies whose mothers had gestational diabetes have no related problems at all later in life. However, children of gestational diabetes pregnancies have a higher risk of being overweight or obese and in being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes later in life.

 

Can I prevent the long term effects of gestational diabetes?  

The good news is that healthy lifestyle choices can significantly reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, even if you have had gestational diabetes or a history of diabetes in the family. A healthy lifestyle includes eating healthy foods, getting active, maintaining a healthy weight range and avoiding being sedentary for long periods.   

 

Summary  

  • While gestational diabetes usually goes away after the baby is born, we know that there are some possible long term health risks for both you and baby. 

  • Babies whose mothers had gestational diabetes have a higher risk of obesity and developing type 2 diabetes in later life. 

  • Mothers who had gestational diabetes are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes and other health problems such as high blood pressure and heart disease later in life.  

 

As you can see adopting healthy lifestyle changes during your pregnancy journey and continuing them with your family after pregnancy can break the cycle of developing lifestyle diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease in the future. 

For ways you can help prevent the long term impacts of gestational diabetes, as well as access support services, recipes, workouts, tips, hacks, events (and so much more), join the Capital Chicks CANberra online community today. 

 

References 

  • N Poolsup et al. Effect of Treatment of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. PLoS One. 2014; 9(3): e92485. 
  • Black MH, Sacks DA, Xiang AH, Lawrence JM. The relative contribution of pre-pregnancy overweight and obesity, gestational weight gain, and IADPSG-defined gestational diabetes mellitus to fetal overgrowth. Diabetes Care. 2013; 36(1):5662 
  • O’Sullivan J. Diabetes Mellitus after GDM.  Diabetes 1991; 29 (Suppl.2): 131‐35  
  • Moses RG. The recurrence rate of gestational diabetes mellitus in subsequent  pregnancies. Diabetes Care 1996; 19: 1348‐1350 
  • Stephanie MacNeill et al. Rates and Risk Factors for Recurrence of Gestational Diabetes. Diabetes Care 2001 Apr; 24(4): 659-662. 
  • AIHW. National Hospital Morbidity Database, 2016-2017. 
  • Peterson, L. R., McKenzie, C., Schaffer, J. E. (2012). Diabetic cardiovascular disease: getting to the heart of the matter. Journal of Cardiovascular Translational Research, in press. 
  • Helen D. Nickerson and Sanjoy Dutta. Diabetic Complications: Current Challenges and Opportunities. J Cardiovasc Transl Res. 2012 Aug; 5(4): 375–379. 
  • Shin Kim;Andrea Sharma;William Callaghan. Gestational diabetes and childhood obesity: what is the link? Obstretrics and Gynaecology. December 2012 - Volume 24 - Issue 6 - p 376-381 
  • Ferrara A et al. Diabetes Care. 2011 Jul;34(7):1519-25. A pregnancy and postpartum lifestyle intervention in women with gestational diabetes mellitus reduces diabetes risk factors: a feasibility randomized control trial. 

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