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Gestational Diabetes Predictable Before Pregnancy, Experts Say

FRIDAY, May 27 (HealthDay News) -- Whether or not a woman will develop diabetes during pregnancy can be predicted up to seven years before she even conceives, new research suggests.

In the study of 580 ethnically diverse women, investigators found that routine evaluations of blood sugar and body weight -- long before pregnancy -- could help determine those at greater risk for the condition, according to the report published in the May 26 online edition of the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Gestational diabetes mellitus is a complication of pregnancy that causes glucose intolerance and can increase the risk for preterm delivery and cesarean sections. This condition, which occurs in as many as 7 percent of pregnancies in the United States, can also lead to health issues for the affected babies later in life, such as obesity, diabetes and metabolic disease.

In conducting the study, researchers at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, Calif., found that women who had known risk factors for diabetes and heart disease (such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar and being overweight) prior to conception were also at greater risk for gestational diabetes.

In fact, having high blood sugar levels and being overweight made women 4.6 times more likely to develop gestational diabetes than other women who did not have those risk factors, the investigators found.

These findings could help diagnose and prevent gestational diabetes even before a woman becomes pregnant, reducing the number of adverse outcomes stemming from the condition, the researchers suggested.

"Our study indicates that a woman's cardio-metabolic risk profile for factors routinely assessed at medical visits, such as blood sugar, high blood pressure, cholesterol and body weight, can help clinicians identify high-risk women to target for primary prevention or early management of [gestational diabetes]," lead author Monique Hedderson, a research scientist at Kaiser Permanente, said in a news release from the organization.

More information

The American Diabetes Association has more information on gestational diabetes.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: Kaiser Permanente, news release, May 26, 2011

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