On Increasing Rates of Diabetes in Pregnancy

By Rachel Walden — April 28, 2008

An article set to appear in the May issue of the journal Diabetes Care is garnering widespread media attention today, as it declares that the prevalence of pre-existing diabetes in women who become pregnant has doubled over the past several years. Diabetes can cause serious complications for both women and fetuses during pregnancy.

The authors looked at data for women in Southern California who gave birth to a single baby >20 weeks gestation in one hospital system. They looked at how many women had pre-existing or gestational diabetes, and how the prevalence of diabetes changed over time. The authors found that the overall prevalence of pre-existing diabetes more than doubled from 1999 to 2005, from 0.81 to 1.82 women with the condition per 100 births, with younger women and black women experiencing the largest increases. The researchers did not find a similar change in gestational diabetes, which remained fairly stable.

CDC data indicates that the prevalence of diabetes has risen across all age groups from 1980 to 2005, so it seems somewhat predictable that as more women have diabetes, more births to diabetic women will occur. An important aspect of this issue is that preconception counseling, careful monitoring and control of glucose levels, and intensive following by healthcare providers is generally recommended for women with diabetes who are or plan to become pregnant. One physician who spoke to the Washington Post about the findings stated that “Control isn’t easy to do, because you have to have adequate nutrition and still control your blood sugar.” In other words, the issue isn’t just about headline-friendly risks to babies, but touches on whether women lack appropriate access to affordable healthcare, healthy nutritious foods, and information about the disease and the ability to monitor it closely.

For more information on diabetes and pregnancy, check out this resource from MedlinePlus, and the Diabetic Mommy forum for discussion of the topic with other women.

5 responses to “On Increasing Rates of Diabetes in Pregnancy”

  1. Why am I not surprised? Our food has gotten sweeter especially with the nasty corn syrup. I have a hard time eating most commercial food because of the sweetness. I always bake my own cookies etc and use half the amount of sugar that the recipe calls for. I usually buy the Kashi cookes because they are much lower in suger than most brands.

  2. This rise in preexisting diabetes goes hand in hand with increased obesity rates among childbearing age women. I know when I had my first prenatal visit, I was screened for diabetes. This was at 11 weeks — already past the critical first 8 weeks where uncontrolled blood glucose levels can have a real impact on early fetal development (gestational diabetes later in pregnancy can also cause problems). Luckily, it was negative. I was screened because of my weight and while this is pie in the sky, it might be beneficial to have glucose testing done on a more regular basis and have a real push for it — like the folic acid awareness campaign.

  3. Jacqueline, you sort of hit on something that was bothering me about some of the media coverage of this study – uncontrolled diabetes can have serious effects not just in pregnancy, but for the women themselves throughout their lives (and before pregnancies are detected, as you mention). I kind of thought some of the pieces had a simple “for the babies” focus, but access to adequate diabetes care is an issue for lots of people, not just currently pregnant women.

  4. I think the study is getting attention because it does focus on pregnancy, but I agree with where you are going with this. The point is, some % of women walking around right now have undiagnosed, uncontrolled diabetes. If they become pregnant, they put their babies at risk, but the women’s health is compromised, too. If regular diabetes screening became more frequent and more of an issue like breast screenings, etc. then maybe this number could be cut down. Of course, this also has socioeconomic aspects to it. In my hometown, there is a traveling health van that stops in various neighborhoods and offers blood pressure and blood glucose screenings free of charge to anyone. I think this is a really good model.

  5. Hi! Great post, and thanks for the reference to our forum. The link goes to MedLine – the site is DiabeticMommy.com 🙂

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