Women who are diagnosed with diabetes during pregnancy face a significantly higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the long run, new research shows.
The study, slated for publication in The Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, tracked 843 women diagnosed with gestational diabetes between 1996 and 2003 at Cheil General Hospital in Seoul, South Korea. About 12.5 percent of the women ended up developing type 2 diabetes within two months of delivering their babies. Over the next decade, the number of women diagnosed with type 2 diabetes continued to grow at a rate of 6.8 percent a year.
"The findings indicate as many as half of Asian women who had gestational diabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within eight years of giving birth," said the study's lead researcher, Soo Heon Kwak, M.D., of Seoul National University Hospital.
Although obesity was a major risk factor for the women who went on to develop type 2 diabetes after pregnancy, the researchers also found genetic variations that could explain the timing of the disease's onset.
Dr. Kwak said more research is needed into genetic and lifestyle risk factors that could help doctors better predict who will develop type 2 diabetes. In the meantime, women who develop gestational diabetes should undergo regular blood sugar testing after delivering their babies to track their health.
"It is crucial for women who had gestational diabetes to have their blood sugar levels checked two months after giving birth and annually thereafter," Dr. Kwak said. "In addition to the problems undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes poses to the mother, leaving the disease untreated increases the risk of any future children developing congenital disorders."
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