According to new research by Kaiser Permanente Northern California in Oakland, the results of a 20-year study in the Journal of the American Heart Association show that pregnant women who develop gestational diabetes may be more at risk of developing heart disease later in life.
Nearly 20 percent of pregnant women will develop gestational diabetes—a form of diabetes that only occurs during pregnancy, and that can lead to giving birth to larger babies, which may require a C-section. Heightened hormone levels during pregnancy weaken the effects of insulin, which normally allows cells to absorb glucose from the blood. Glucose screenings to test for gestational diabetes are usually done between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy.
With diet and possible prescription medicines, women who develop gestational diabetes are usually able to control their blood sugar without harming their baby's health. But having gestational diabetes does make women more likely to develop diabetes 5 to 10 years after giving birth (half of all women with gestation diabetes develop type 2 diabetes within 10 years of gestational diabetes), and having gestational diabetes may also raise the risk of ADHD in your child.
If your family has a history of diabetes, you have had an unexplained miscarriage at some point, or are over 25 or were overweight before becoming pregnant, you could be at risk of developing gestational diabetes. You can also have gestational diabetes with one pregnancy and not the next. However, if you've had gestational diabetes once, you have a 60 percent chance of developing it again, according to the American Diabetes Association.
The new study—which tracked 898 women between the ages of 18 and 30 for 20 years—found that women who developed gestational diabetes while pregnant also are at risk for developing atherosclerosis (when the arteries around the heart become clogged by fatty substances). As Medical News Today reports, this could eventually lead to heart attacks and cardiovascular diseases.
Diet and exercise are the best ways to manage gestational diabetes, and fend off heart disease. For those who have already been diagnosed with gestational diabetes—like I was—there's no reason to be depressed. I was over 35, with a family history of diabetes, but by cutting out white flour, refined sugars, and eventually most fruits too, I was able to keep my gestational diabetes in check, and my son was a healthy (but not too large) 7 pounds, 7 ounces. No C-section necessary!
TELL US: Are you at risk for gestational diabetes? How will you adjust your diet and exercise? Did you have gestational diabetes? Share your experiences.
Image of pregnant woman doing yoga courtesy of Shutterstock.