Type 2 diabetes a danger for women with GDM

Monday, 19 April 2021

It’s an unfair reality that women who develop gestational diabetes (GDM) are ten times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.

But only a third realise that they’re at risk, according to new research by the University of South Australia (UniSA).

The research conducted in partnership with the University College Dublin talked to 429 Australian women with a history of GDM, to understand their perceived risk of developing type 2 diabetes, potential barriers to losing weight, and useful strategies for supporting a healthy weight.

Lead researcher, UniSA’s Dr Kristy Gray says understanding the risks of developing type 2 diabetes is essential as prevention is the key.

Gestational diabetes on the rise

“Gestational diabetes is the fastest growing type of diabetes in Australia, affecting thousands of pregnant women each year; and globally, it affects almost one in five pregnancies,” Dr Gray says.

“Women who’ve had GDM are ten times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, but only a third of these women understand that they are at greater risk.

“Being overweight is a common risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes, making post pregnancy weight loss important in preventing onset of this disease.

“In our study, while 75 per cent of the women surveyed understood that they were overweight, this knowledge didn’t translate into a higher level of perceived risk.”

Prevention strategies to boost awareness of risks

Co-researcher, Associate Professor Jennifer Keogh says diabetes prevention strategies must embrace both education and lifestyle.

“Women diagnosed with GDM often have a young family, which means any interventions need to be considered in line with small children, busy lifestyles and multiple priorities,” Dr Keogh says.

“The priority is to educate both women with gestational diabetes, and the health professionals who care for them, to ensure greater communication and boost awareness of the risk factors these women have.

Post pregnancy tests essential to reduce type 2 risk

“This is a critical, as close to a quarter of women in this study had not been tested for type 2 diabetes following a pregnancy with gestational diabetes.

“We also know that the most effective time to initiate and commit to healthy lifestyle and behaviour changes is up to two years post pregnancy, so interventions are likely to be more effective during this time frame.

“Motivation to lose weight is a significant barrier to change – whether it be because of a busy family or because a lifestyle change can be hard to stick to – consistent education, strong messaging and personalised care, can instigate positive change.

“Prevention is the key; making sure women’s needs, views, and situations are considered is an essential part of the solution.”

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