Ongoing Effects Of Gestational Diabetes

One of the most common health problems of pregnancy, affecting between two and seven percent of expectant mothers, is gestational diabetes.

Diabetes 101

Diabetes is a condition in which the pancreas is either unable to produce enough insulin to utilize blood sugar in the body, or the body cannot use the insulin made by the pancreas to convert blood sugar into energy. When the body takes in carbohydrates in food form, it breaks them down into usable sugars which will be converted by insulin into energy. If this process is flawed, the sugar remains in the blood and is not utilized by the body.

How Does A Woman Get Gestational Diabetes?

Gestational diabetes happens because during pregnancy hormones make the process of insulin usage more difficult, putting more stress on the pancreas to produce insulin. When a woman's pancreas can't keep up with the demand for insulin and her blood glucose levels climb too high, gestational diabetes results. Most women with gestational diabetes don't remain diabetic after the birth of the baby. Although, once a woman has had gestational diabetes, she is at risk of getting it again in her next pregnancy. She may also develop Type 2 diabetes later in life.

Large Study Shows Gestational Diabetes Can Lead to Type 2 Diabetes

A study by researchers from the University of Toronto, Mount Sinai Hospital and Institute for Clinical and Evaluative Sciences conducted a study involving more than 21,000 women with gestational diabetes. It was found that women with the condition are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes and almost 20 percent will develop it within nine years of pregnancy.

The study found that in the first nine months after delivery the rate of diabetes rapidly increased, arriving at its peak after nine years. Dr. Denice Feig, co-author of the study said, "In this large, population-based study, we found that diabetes developed within nine years after the index pregnancy in 18.9 percent of women with previous gestational diabetes; this rate was much higher than the rate among women without gestational diabetes."

Mothers Are Not The Only Ones Who Have Long-Lasting Side Effects

Mothers are not the only ones affected by gestational diabetes. Their babies often suffer from a variety of problems, including the possibility of developing Type 2 diabetes as well. Overly large babies have high glucose levels at birth and this can contribute to developing diabetes later on. If the baby is born pre-term, there could be birth defects including breathing problems, heart problems, low birth weight, and difficulty eating and maintaining weight.

According to a research team directed by Professor Ginette Dionne of Universite Laval's school of Psychology, children who are born to mothers with gestational diabetes are at double risk for language development problems as those born to mothers who did not have the condition.

Vocabulary and grammar skills of 221 children born to mothers who had gestational diabetes were compared to those of 2,612 children from a control group. The tests were conducted at different points between ages 18 months and seven years. The results showed that children born to mothers who had gestational diabetes scored much lower on tests involving spoken vocabulary and grammar than children born to healthy mothers.


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