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What’s the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes for Women who had Gestational Diabetes?

Woman staying active to prevent gestational diabetes

According to a new diabetes clinical trial, women who have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes over the course of their pregnancy will have a much higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes (T2D) at some point later in their lives. The results of this study have been published in the latest edition of The Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM).

This diabetes clinical study tracked 843 different women who had been diagnosed with gestational diabetes at some point between 1996 and 2003 at the Cheil General Hospital in Seoul, South Korea. Nearly 12.5 percent of these women had actually developed type 2 diabetes within two months of their deliveries. Over the course of the next 10 years, the number of participants who were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes continued to increase at a relatively steady rate of 6.8 percent annually.

Nearly Half of These Women will Develop T2D

According to Dr. Soo Heon Kwak, the lead author of this study, the results suggest that up to 50 percent of Asian women who have had gestational diabetes could develop type 2 diabetes within eight years following their pregnancies.

To date, this is one of the largest diabetes related studies ever conducted on Asian women who had gestational diabetes. This team of researchers monitored 370 study participants for over a year after they had given birth to their children. Out of the remaining women from the trial, 105 had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes within two months of giving birth, and the rest chose not to participate in any long-term follow-up visits.

Two Distinct Groups at Risk for T2D

Investigators found two distinct populations of women who were at risk: 1. anyone who had developed diabetes within the first two months following their pregnancy. 2. Any participants that took more than a year or more to progress to their diabetes diagnosis. Even though obesity was a primary risk factor in both of these groups, the team found certain genetic differences that could account for the timing of disease’s onset.

The participants who had developed type 2 diabetes really quickly also possessed an significant defect when it came to the secretion of insulin. Within this group, investigators identified a variation in the HHEX (hematopoietically expressed homeobox) gene which has been linked to type 2 diabetes.

So how about the women that did not develop diabetes as quickly? The research team found that these participants probably possessed a variation in the CDKAL1 gene, which has also been associated with cases of type 2 diabetes.

More Research on T2D is Still Needed

Dr. Kwak says that the results of this study are not yet conclusive, since more research on the environmental and genetic risk factors is still required before investigators can produce an accurate model that can predict who is will get type 2 diabetes. However, it is recommended that women who have had gestational diabetes should get their blood sugar levels tested.

“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 stated. “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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