Gestational diabetes affects between 5% and 10% of pregnant women, usually occurring in the second half of pregnancy. If untreated, it can result in a myriad of additional health problems. Mothers diagnosed with gestational diabetes have the following health risks:
- Higher chance of developing high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia
- Increased chance of developing gestational diabetes in future pregnancies
- Likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes after giving birth is seven times higher, with 50% of women receiving a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes within 10 years of giving birth
- Risk of developing metabolic syndrome, a cluster of health problems including heart disease, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and abdominal obesity
While the lingering effects of gestational diabetes in mothers have been well documented, the health of their offspring is less so. In fact, there is debate on who should follow up on future diabetic testing: the patient, general practitioner, or endocrinologist. If you develop gestational diabetes, work with your healthcare team to determine how to follow up on future glucose testing.
If left untreated, infants of mothers with gestational diabetes may be born overweight and with low glucose levels as their bodies have grown used to receiving extra glucose from the mother. Additional risks to infants include premature birth, respiratory distress syndrome, and increased likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
No one can predict who will develop gestational diabetes and who will not, but staying active and eating healthy prior to and during pregnancy can decrease the likelihood of development.