Lowering Diabetes Risk After Pregnancy

About nine percent of pregnant women have gestational diabetes, which usually goes away after they give birth. But about half these women will develop Type 2 diabetes later in life. A new study suggests two ways to significantly reduce the risk.

Researchers studied 350 women with a history of gestational diabetes, comparing them with 1,416 women with previous live births but no history of gestational diabetes. The women randomly received one of three treatments: an intensive exercise and diet program, the diabetes drug metformin or a placebo.

Over all, women with a history of gestational diabetes had a 48 percent higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes over the 10-year study compared with women who had stayed healthy during pregnancy. Metformin reduced the post-pregnancy risk of diabetes by 40 percent, while the lifestyle program lowered risk by 35 percent. Among the women who had never had gestational diabetes, the drug was not effective, but the lifestyle program also significantly reduced the risk for Type 2 diabetes. The study is online in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Women with gestational diabetes “are still at high risk even many years later,” said the lead author, Dr. Vanita R. Aroda, a physician investigator at the MedStar Health Research Institute, “and those risks can be reduced with metformin or lifestyle changes. This has significant public health benefits.”