Even Small Elevations in Blood Sugar Level During Pregnancy Can be a Long‑Term Problem
A new study has found that even a modest elevation of blood sugar level during pregnancy carries negative health effects for mothers and children a decade after childbirth — even if the level doesn’t qualify as gestational diabetes.
“The differences in mothers and their children due to the mother’s higher blood glucose are very concerning. Even accounting for the mother’s weight, glucose had an independent effect,” said Dr. Barbara Linder, a study author and senior advisor for childhood diabetes research at the NIDDK. “Our findings add to the motivation to find ways to help women at high risk for gestational diabetes who are or plan to get pregnant to take steps to reduce their risk.”
Diabetes, as well as gestational diabetes, is a growing problem for Indians, who are predisposed to insulin resistance to begin with; estimates tor gestational diabetes vary, but small-scale regional studies suggest the complication might affect as many as 35 to 41% of pregnant women.
The study was a follow-up to a 2008 study that linked elevated blood sugar levels during pregnancy to complications shortly before and after birth. That study prompted many organizations, but not all, to redefine gestational diabetes; the new research adds weight to an expanded definition of the pregnancy complication.
The follow-up study tracked 4,700 pregnant women across the world who had elevated blood sugar levels at the time of their pregnancy, but who did not meet the traditional criteria for gestational diabetes. Of this group, nearly 11% had developed type-2 diabetes at the time of follow-up (10 to 14 years later) and 42% had prediabetes.
Children of these women were also more at-risk for metabolic diseases. For instance, 19% of children of these mothers were obese, versus only 10% of children of women with normal blood sugar levels during pregnancy.
The good news is gestational diabetes can be managed so as to minimize effects on both mother and child — but it has to be diagnosed to be treated. The doctors and clinics who have adopted the new, expanded definition of gestational diabetes might be ahead of the curve.