It's Only Getting Worse: Diabetes in Pregnant Women

According to an abstract presented this week at a conference hosted by the Obesity Society, diabetes is a growing problem among pregnant women.

In fact, rates of both pre-pregnancy diabetes and gestational diabetes have been on the rise since 1980.

There is a racial component, too: It appears that these rates are higher among black women.

The Data

Researcher Kelly Hunt, PhD, of the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, says in the abstract that between 1980 and 2008, the estimated rate of diabetes during pregnancy (in both gestational and pre-pregnancy) increased:

-- From 5% to 8.7% among white women;
-- From 5.7% to 9.7% among black women.

Hunt says that the higher rates among black women were in pre-pregnancy diabetes, not gestational diabetes. Furthermore, as time went on, the gap between black and white women appeared to get bigger.

The Reason

According to Hunt, diabetes rates among pregnant women are increasing not because of some frightening and previously undiscovered new development, but to the epidemic of obesity already underway in the United States. She also stated that the statistics are likely bolstered by the fact that women are having children at older ages as well.

"One thing that's good is that the awareness of diabetes during pregnancy has increased a lot in the past 20 years," she said, "which is important because you want either pre-pregnancy diabetes or gestational diabetes to be treated during pregnancy so that the impact on the infant is minimized."

This is crucial since exposure to diabetes during pregnancy is linked to a variety of problems, including higher birth weight, birth defects, and a higher risk of the child being obese in childhood as well as adulthood.

The Take-Home Message

"More interventions are needed, both to reduce the prevalence of diabetes prior to pregnancy and to prevent women who have gestational diabetes from subsequently developing type 2 diabetes," said Hunt. "The take-home message is that we have a lot more work to do and with the obesity and diabetes epidemics, we really need to be thinking about how they're impacting the next generation."

[Please keep in mind that this data has been presented as an abstract at a medical conference. Until it's published in a peer-reviewed publication, it should be considered preliminary only.]

Source: Hunt K, et al "Prevalence estimates of diabetes during pregnancy in United States women, 1980 to 2008" Obesity Society 2012; Abstract 744-P.

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