Hidden Risks of Diabetes During Pregnancy

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Diabetes that develops during pregnancy is a potentially serious complication — for the mother-to-be as well as for her unborn baby. But what does gestational diabetes that resolves after delivery mean for a woman’s health down the road?

About half of women with gestational diabetes later develop type 2 diabetes, but a new analysis published online in Diabetologia suggests that these women also have twice the risk of having cardiovascular disease, even if they don’t develop diabetes.

For the review, researchers in Canada analyzed data from nine studies conducted between 1950 and 2018, involving 5,390,591 women overall and a total of 101,424 cardiovascular events (heart attacks and strokes, for example). When women with type 2 diabetes were excluded from the analysis, those who had developed gestational diabetes in the past were 56 percent more likely than those who didn’t have diabetes in pregnancy to have a heart attack or stroke. What’s even more alarming is that this increased risk was seen within 10 years of having gestational diabetes and giving birth.

The researchers suggest that women who develop gestational diabetes may have an undiagnosed, chronic, metabolic disorder that’s present before, during, and after pregnancy. What does this mean for you if you have had gestational diabetes? Talk to your health care provider about heart disease screening and prevention.