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Child health risks of gestational diabetes

Children born to women with gestational diabetes are six times more likely to develop diabetes

Thursday, 03 September 2015

Diabetes UK says that children born to women with gestational diabetes are six times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes in later life.

It is urging women to try to make sure they are a healthy weight, which is the most important thing they can do to reduce their risk of gestational diabetes. The charity's new ‘Gestational Diabetes’ guide explains the condition, gives practical tips and explains the care and treatment to help support a healthy pregnancy and labour.

About five per cent of pregnant women in the UK – around 35,000 women – are diagnosed with gestational diabetes each year. New diagnosis guidelines, published by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) earlier this year, are likely to see even more women being diagnosed with the condition as they introduce a lower threshold (measuring blood glucose levels) for diagnosing the condition.

Diabetes UK says that while people may understand that gestational diabetes makes the pregnancy higher risk for both mother and child, they may be unaware of the long-term health effects to the child.

While some of this higher risk to the child is likely to be because of family history, part of it is also likely to be because of the mother’s high blood glucose levels affecting early life nutrition. Women with gestational diabetes are also seven times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes in later life.

Other risk factors for gestational diabetes include: having had gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy or having had a baby that weighed over 10 lbs (4.5kg); being older (aged over 25); having close family relatives (parents or siblings) with type 2 diabetes; or being of a South Asian, Black or African Caribbean or Middle Eastern background.

Dr David Richmond, the president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, says that most women who develop diabetes in pregnancy have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies but occasionally gestational diabetes can cause serious problems, especially if it goes unrecognised.

“Immediate changes to lifestyle, including a healthy diet and moderate levels of exercise can have significantly positive effects on a woman and her baby’s health. Women should be offered individualised dietary advice but also receive tailored antenatal care for their needs,” said Dr Richmond.

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