Diabetes during pregnancy is serious
Globally, about 14% of pregnancies are complicated by the mother developing diabetes while pregnant. This is called gestational diabetes mellitus, or GDM. In the United States, GDM occurs in about 6% of pregnancies. It is defined as high blood sugar levels first detected during pregnancy. This is an important diagnosis as women with GDM are at risk of serious birth complications including birth defects, large babies, early birth, and stillbirth. Women with GDM are also at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes within the 10 years after giving birth. In addition, women with GDM have a higher risk of developing depression and early cardiovascular disease (including heart disease, strokes and high blood pressure).
Gestational diabetes disproportionately impacts minorities
Minority women in the United States have higher rates of GDM. This is especially true among Black and Hispanic women. Some racial/ethnic groups born outside the United States may also be at higher risk of GDM than women born in the United States. In this study, researchers looked at the long-term risks for women with a history of GDM to examine the impact of race/ethnicity.
Race and ethnicity impact long-term disease risk for women with GDM. For example, among participants with a history of GDM, black women have a high risk of chronic disease (such as type 2 diabetes) with more than a 70% risk. This was followed by White women at about 60%, Hispanic women at 58%, and Asian women at 52%. Black women with GDM are nearly 2.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with long-term health conditions compared to other racial/ethnic groups. Also, smokers and overweight/obese women are more likely to develop long-term health conditions. For Hispanic women with GDM, about half will develop diabetes five years after delivering their baby. However, the long-term risks for Hispanic women with GDM is difficult to determine because many Hispanic women who develop diabetes while pregnant move back to their native country. This makes it hard to count how Hispanic women got sick.
More work is needed to find out what happens to Hispanic women who are pregnant and develop gestational diabetes, and more importantly, how to prevent it.