Diet and exercise can help prevent gestational diabetes, researchers suggest

by Sarita Sheth on September 25, 2012

Increasing rates of pre-pregnancy and gestational diabetes since 1980

Rates of both pre-pregnancy and gestational diabetes have increased since 1980, with greater increases in pre-pregnancy diabetes among black women, researchers in the United States have found.

But the researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina believe that diet and exercise and advice for young women who may be at risk of developing diabetes can help to reduce the incidences of gestational diabetes.

Their research found that from 1980 to 2008, the estimated rate of diabetes during pregnancy, combining both gestational and pre-pregnancy diabetes, increased from 5% to 8.7% among white women and from 5.7% to 9.7% among black women, according to research lead by Kelly Hunt, PhD.

Hunt and her colleagues looked at trends in diabetes during pregnancy in non-Hispanic white and black women ages 15 to 44. In a published abstract summarising the preliminary conclusions Hunt said that diabetes during pregnancy should be regarded as an important public health priority.

‘In summary, diabetes during pregnancy is a common and increasing complication of pregnancy that differentially affects racial and ethnic minority populations dependent upon their underlying risk of diabetes,’ she said.

‘Hence, an important public health priority, consistent with reducing health disparities between racial and ethnic groups, is prevention of diabetes, starting with maternal health pre- and post-conception,’ she added.

She said diabetes rates overall increased because of the obesity epidemic and the rising age at which women are giving birth and the population health impact of GDM is not limited to exposed offspring, but affects maternal health as well.

Once diagnosed with GDM, a woman has a substantial chance of developing type 2 diabetes following delivery, with some studies reporting a five year cumulative incidence rate of over 50%.

‘Moreover, because childbearing women are relatively young, women with GDM who develop overt diabetes acquire it at a young age, substantially increasing their lifetime risk of developing complications from diabetes,’ Hunt explained.

Reviewing various studies and programmes, she pointed out that The Diabetes Prevention Programme was one of several clinical trials which indicates that either through diet and exercise, or with the aid of a pharmacological agent, it is possible to lower the incidence or delay the onset of diabetes among individuals at high risk of the disease.

As a result she believes that women with GDM, because of their high diabetes risk and young age, are ideally suited to be targeted for lifestyle or pharmacological interventions to delay or prevent the onset of overt diabetes.

‘Because women with GDM are of childbearing age, preventing or delaying the onset of overt diabetes not only improves the woman’s health, but protects future offspring from the harmful effects of elevated glucose levels in pregnancy,’ she added.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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