Just as our nation is in the grips of an obesity epidemic, the number of pregnant women with diabetes is skyrocketing.
Pregnant women with diabetes has doubled in seven years. For teenage mothers, the pre-existing diabetes has grown fivefold during the same time period.
An out-of-control diabetic condition means the pregnancy can miscarry or the child can be stillborn or have an increase risk of birth defects.
Researchers suspect that pregnant women who gained weight or became obese prior to becoming pregnant account for the rise in Type 2 diabetes.
The numbers come out of Kaiser Permanente hospitals in Southern California which monitored 11 hospitals from 1999 to 2005. The 175,000 women’s health records studied are believed to reflect the U.S. population at large.
In 1999 there were 245 women with pre-existing diabetes. By 2005 that number had swelled to 537. And among teenagers giving birth the rate increased from 1 per 1,000 pregnancies to 5.5 per 1,000.
A small number of the cases of diabetes are attributed to gestational diabetes which affects 3 to 8 percent of pregnant U.S. women and shows up during pregnancy.
About 15 million Americans have diabetes. Being overweight and obesity is a key risk factor for Type 2 diabetes, however the type of diabetes was not studied in this data.
Type 2 diabetes is a condition where the body makes too little insulin to deal with the sugars introduced by food. Sugar ends up in the blood stream damaging arteries and their functioning.
Blacks, Asians and Hispanics have more cases of diabetes before pregnancy than Caucasians.
"There are things women can do before they become pregnant that will increase the likelihood of them having a healthy baby," lead author Jean Lawrence, a research scientist with Kaiser Permanente Southern California tells the Los Angeles Times.
Women who know they have diabetes should plan their pregnancy. They are encouraged to constantly monitor their sugar levels during the day, seek medical care and consult on diet and exercise before becoming pregnant and during the pregnancy.
Women who don’t know they are diabetic should determine that before becoming pregnant. Often women don’t know they are pregnant during crucial development times of the fetus heart, which can lead to heart defects if blood sugar is not monitored.
The increase in pre-existing diabetes, particularly among younger women early in their reproductive years, is of concern, researchers conclude.
Results of the study were published online Monday in the journal Diabetes Care, a publication of American Diabetes Association, which funded the research. #