Researchers have identified a new link between pre-eclampsia in pregnancy and the development of diabetes in later life.
The condition, which results in high blood pressure and protein in the mother’s urine, affects 5% to 8% of pregnancies and is the most common cause of severe perinatal ill health.
The new study, led by scientists from Keel University in the UK found that pre-eclampsia is independently associated with a two fold increase in future diabetes and the increased risk occurs from less than one year after delivery of the baby and persisted to over 10 years after birth.
‘This study highlights the importance of clinical risk assessment and follow-up for the future development of diabetes in women with pre-eclampsia,’ said Dr Pensee Wu, lecturer in obstetrics and gynaecology at Keele University’s Institute of Science and Technology in Medicine.
‘Understanding of health conditions during pregnancy and their impact on health over a woman’s life is vital in the prevention of conditions such as diabetes. Ensuring women are screened regularly and take preventative measures through diet and exercise could help reduce the number of women who later contract diabetes after experiencing pre-eclampsia during pregnancy,’ she added.
The study involved a systematic review of research over the past 10 years, much of which was conflicting about the impact of pre-eclampsia later in life. A total of 21 studies were identified with more than 2.8 million women, including more than 72,500 women with pre-eclampsia.
The research also included adjustments for BMI, gestational diabetes and age. The risk of diabetes in women who had experienced pre-eclampsia was approximately double that of women without a history of pre-eclampsia, and increased to 2.4 fold if type 2 diabetes was considered exclusively.
The understanding of the long-term impact of women’s health following pre-eclampsia is, however, growing. For example, the American Heart Association has linked pre-eclampsia to longer term cardiac conditions.
The researchers said that it may be that women with pre-eclampsia have an underlying predisposition to insulin resistance and the metabolic syndrome, and present with pre-eclampsia as an early indicator of their adverse metabolic phenotype over the life course.
‘Diabetes is a multi-organ condition. If we can prevent it from developing early on, it could dramatically reduce the risks of serious health issues later in life for women after birth,’ Dr Wu pointed out.
Researchers hope that dissemination of this study to clinicians, particularly those in primary care health provision, will inform practice and longer term preventative measures and also said there is a need for more work.
‘As women with pre-eclampsia are already known to be at risk of future cardiovascular disease, our study highlights the need for education on risk, advice about lifestyle modifications, and regular monitoring of BMI and HbA 1c in women who have had pre-eclampsia. There is also a need to evaluate a screening programme for diabetes in this high risk population,’ it concludes.
The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.