Gestational diabetes is linked to poorer health later in life, but it doesn’t mean you’re doomed for a life of poor health.
Women with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) during pregnancy are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, hypertension and ischemic heart disease later on in life.
The news about complications such as diabetes and GDM isn’t really new, though a report on it recently appeared in PLOS Medicine. In the study, researchers from the University of Birmingham looked at the incidence of type 2 diabetes, hypertension and ischemic heart and cerebrovascular diseases in about 9,000 UK women between 1990 and 2016.
They found those with GDM were more than 20 times likely to get type 2 diabetes later in life and more than two and one-half times more likely to develop ischemic heart disease. They also were nearly twice as likely to have hypertension.
“We have known that women are at increased risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease after GDM. The same is true for preeclampsia, which also increases the risk of both diabetes and heart disease as well in later life,” explained Loralei L. Thornburg, MD, a professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York.
She says the best way to think of pregnancy is that it is a “stress test” on your body. “If you had complications with pregnancy [GDM, preeclampsia, hypertension) that was the ‘warning’ that your body is at risk for these issues… and you know that you’re at increased risk of having those same issues later on.”
That doesn’t mean you’re doomed in the future. Thornburg advises exercising regularly, eating well and breastfeeding if possible. A mostly plant-based diet, as well as avoiding tobacco and alcohol, are good ways to maintain optimal health.
Also, try to plan your pregnancy because that can ensure any medical conditions are addressed before pregnancy.
“More and more data is showing the pregnancy is the window to future health, both for mom and baby,” she said. “We are now finding that the in utero environment is a huge piece of the ‘programing’ of our DNA and genes for our lifetime health.”