Managing Gestational Diabetes Yields Long-Term Benefits
Christine Leonard is the proud mother of three sons. With each child, she developed gestational diabetes during her pregnancy, which meant her blood sugar levels were too high. For Christine, she knew it was critical to eat right, exercise and carefully monitor her condition to have a healthy pregnancy.
“Each time, I was diagnosed early,” says Christine. “I was just very diligent about everything and made some lifestyle modifications."
Even after Christine delivered, it was important for her to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and here's why: It is estimated that up to 10 percent of women with gestational diabetes are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes soon after delivery. Over 10 years, the risk can increase up to 50 percent. But the risks can be mitigated if preventative screenings are scheduled. Yet, too many women are skipping the required postpartum glucose tolerance test, usually given to women six to 12 weeks after they’ve delivered. Recent studies show that up to 50 percent of patients do not show up for this important test. The low compliance is likely because too many women are overwhelmed after bringing home a newborn baby and simply forget.
Dr. Sara Iqbal, a high-risk obstetrician at MedStar Washington Hospital Center says, “Educating the patient and providing test reminders is essential in order to improve the rate of testing postpartum."
During her pregnancy, Christine followed the sound advice she received from Dr. Iqbal and to this day remains vigilant about her dietary changes.
“She was my model patient as she made the lifestyle changes that I asked,” says Dr. Iqbal. “This is very important because having gestational diabetes puts her at high-risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life.”
Dr. Iqbal advises patients to:
- Watch food portions and caloric intake
- Avoid gaining too much weight as obesity is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes
- Continue to exercise
- Follow up for the postpartum glucose tolerance test
- Have your blood sugar levels tested every one to three years, depending on the glucose tolerance test results
“When I delivered my baby, the diabetes went away soon after, but I will be really aggressive about monitoring for the rest of my life,” says Christine.
From past experience, Christine knows that diabetes is easy to treat when caught early, before complications can occur, and most important, understands that type 2 diabetes can be prevented by simple, easily applicable lifestyle modifications.