Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Gestational Diabetes Can Have Lasting Consequences

(Salt Lake City, UT) – On average, 2,000 babies – 1 in every 25 births – are born each year to Utah mothers with gestational diabetes.  Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is a condition during pregnancy in which a woman’s blood sugars are higher than normal. GDM can cause serious problems for both mom and baby. The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) wants women to understand the importance of blood sugar control during pregnancy and of testing sugars and lifestyle modification after pregnancy. 

New data from the 2011 Utah Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS), a survey of recently delivered women, show that only one-third of mothers with GDM reported having their blood sugars tested after the baby was born.

“Most women have no symptoms of gestational diabetes and are tested for high blood sugar between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy,” said Lois Bloebaum, UDOH Maternal and Child Health Quality Improvement Director. “The condition can be serious and can lead to large babies, making labor longer, more difficult, and sometimes requiring a C-section.”  

Women are at higher risk for GDM if they are older, overweight, or obese before becoming pregnant, have a family history of diabetes, or are of African American, Hispanic, American Indian, Alaskan Native, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander heritage. 

“Even more worrisome is the fact that a woman who has had GDM is now at higher risk of developing full-blown type 2 diabetes after delivery,” said Bloebaum. “Type 2 is the most common and can lead to several health complications if it isn’t managed well.” 

Utah mom Rachel Davis felt very tired after she delivered her 5th baby in 2012.  “I thought it was just stress,” said Davis. “But at my postpartum checkup, I found out I had type 2 diabetes.  I immediately worked with my physician to manage my blood sugar and soon had more energy and felt better,” she added. “Every mother (who had gestational diabetes) should do herself and her family a huge favor and get her blood sugar tested."

Laurie Baksh, UDOH Maternal and Infant Health Program Manager, agrees. “It’s essential that every mom who delivers a baby and had gestational diabetes gets a checkup that includes blood sugar testing after the baby is born,” said Baksh. “Our data show that 89% of women with the condition said they had a postpartum checkup, but only 34% had their sugars tested during the visit.”

Some simple things women with GDM can do after delivery to reduce the risk for developing type 2 diabetes in the future are:
•  Choose healthy foods, like fresh produce, water, and whole grain breads and cereals.
•  Engage in some form of physical activity at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week.
•  Breastfeed your baby.
•  See your health care provider regularly and have blood sugar tested every 1 to 3 years.
•  Lose weight gained during pregnancy within six months of delivery.  
•  Maintain a healthy weight.  

Women with GDM should see their health care provider if they are planning on becoming pregnant again as they are at high risk for a recurrence in their next pregnancy. The good news is that lifestyle changes can help reduce that risk. More information can be found at the National Diabetes Education Program - May is for Moms! Web page at
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The mission of the Utah Department of Health is to protect the public's health through preventing avoidable illness, injury, disability and premature death, assuring access to affordable health care, and promoting healthy lifestyles.