From One Diabetes to Another

Type 2 diabetes risk highest in African American women with gestational diabetes

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) All women who develop gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) should be screened for diabetes after they deliver their baby. Diabetes screening may be especially important for some African American mothers.

African American women diagnosed with gestational diabetes have a 52 percent higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later on, compared to white women who were diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

"Get screened for diabetes, even after having gestational diabetes."

According to lead author Anny H. Xiang, Ph.D., of Kaiser Permanente in Pasadena, doctors and nurses should consider race and ethnicity as risk factors for diabetes in women who have had a pregnancy complicated by gestational diabetes.

Gestational diabetes is high blood sugar, or diabetes, that begins during pregnancy. The condition can cause a variety of problems, including early delivery and cesarean delivery (delivery through surgery).

Babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes have a higher risk of developing diabetes, obesity, and other metabolic complications later in life. In general, gestational diabetes disappears after pregnancy, but there is still the risk of type 2 diabetes in the future.

From their study, Dr. Xiang and colleagues found that African American women have a lower risk of developing gestational diabetes than other racial and ethnic groups. However, those African American women who developed gestational diabetes had the highest risk of developing diabetes in the future, compared to all other racial and ethnic groups.

Compared to all the other racial and ethnic groups in the study, African American women who had gestational diabetes faced the greatest risk of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in the future.

If African American women had gestational diabetes during a past pregnancy, they were nearly 10 times more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes, compared to those who did not develop gestational diabetes.

Dr. Xiang says all women who have had gestational diabetes should be screened for diabetes soon after having their baby and then regularly for some time after. These women, she says, could be protected from diabetes by changing their diet or doing more exercise.

Although diabetes prevention messages are important for all women who develop gestational diabetes, the results of this study show that prevention messages are especially important for African American women, Dr. Xiang explains.

The researchers came to these conclusions through a study of 77,666 women from different ethnic backgrounds who gave birth between 1995 and 2009.

This study cannot explain exactly why African American women have a higher risk for diabetes after gestational diabetes, but the increased risk is likely due to a combination of genetic, environmental, lifestyle, and other factors.

The full results of this large retrospective matched cohort study are published in the journal Diabetologia.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 21, 2011
Last Updated:
October 24, 2011