Developing diabetes in pregnancy on the rise, Canadian study warns

Watch above: A new study says 1 in 10 women will develop diabetes during pregnancy. Angie Seth reports. 

TORONTO — Developing diabetes in pregnancy is becoming much more common in Ontario, a new study is warning.

Cases of Type 2 diabetes have been on the rise in Canada and around the world. The trend is also picking up in pregnant women. In Ontario, gestational and pre-gestational diabetes doubled from 1996 to 2010, according to the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences.

By 2010, one in every 10 pregnant women over the age of 30 had developed diabetes in pregnancy.

“That’s a very big group of women and it’s a big burden. It is very worrisome,” lead researcher Dr. Denice Feig told Global News. She’s a Mount Sinai Hospital doctor and University of Toronto associate professor in medicine.

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About 97 per cent of the time, gestational diabetes dissipates post-pregnancy, but the new moms are at a higher risk of the chronic condition, even in the first five to 10 years after giving birth. It also makes pregnancy much more complicated.

“Treatment for these women is not trivial. Women with gestational diabetes have to be taught the diabetic diet, and how to check their blood sugar levels,” Feig said.

Women with pre-gestational diabetes have to visit the diabetes-in-pregnancy team at least every two weeks and deal with a high-risk obstetrics team so their babies don’t face adverse outcomes.

In her medical practice, Feig said she noticed more expectant moms developing gestational diabetes in the middle of their second trimesters.

She looked at the health data of more than 1.1 million women who gave birth. Rates of gestational diabetes climbed from 2.7 per cent in 1996 up to 5.6 per cent in 2010 while the rates of pregestational diabetes – types 1 and 2 – rose from 0.7 per cent to 1.5 per cent.

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Feig said the data on pregestational diabetes didn’t differentiate if women had Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes but in the latter case, and in the case of gestational diabetes, weight, diet, exercise and lifestyle are likely key factors in why women developed diabetes.

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For women with diabetes prior to pregnancy, those with high blood sugar levels at conception and in the first trimester were even putting their unborn babies at risk of developing congenital anomalies, such as malformations in the heart, brain or kidneys.

“We would encourage women to enter pregnancy with the best possible blood sugar control to decrease the risk of these malformations,” Feig said.

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An expectant mom’s decisions follow her baby for a lifetime, Feig warned: if she develops diabetes in pregnancy, her child may be at an increased risk of childhood obesity and diabetes in his or her lifetime.

The researchers hope their findings will help doctors test their patients for diabetes and coach them on how to have a healthy pregnancy. Women with Type 2 diabetes tend to be of a lower socioeconomic status. They also found that living in a rural community increased the risk of congenital anomalies.

These communities may need more education on prepregnancy planning and better access to diabetes-in-pregnancy specialists.

Canadian research released last month also warned that new moms should try to lose weight within the first year of giving birth to stave off diabetes and heart disease.

READ MORE: New moms, lose baby weight or face diabetes, heart health risk

Feig’s findings were published Thursday in the journal Diabetes Care.

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