Diabetes link to pregnancy

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 July, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 July, 2010, 12:00am

Pregnant women with a temporary form of diabetes have a higher risk of developing the type 2 form of the disease and hypertension in later years, as are their children, according to new research.

Researchers at Chinese University studied more than 200 women who gave birth in the early 1990s and found that of the women with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) - abnormally high glucose levels during pregnancy - about a quarter had diabetes 15 years later.

'After eight years of follow-up assessment, 9 per cent of women with GDM developed diabetes, and the number increases to 24.4 per cent with diabetes after 15 years,' Professor Ronald Ma Ching-wan, from the university's department of medicine and therapeutics, said. 'Women with a history of GDM have a triple chance of having hypertension.'

The study also found that pregnant women with GDM had a greater risk of giving birth to a baby weighing more than 4kg, and difficulties during delivery.

Women at an advanced maternal age, obese women or those with a family history of diabetes are more likely to develop GDM in their pregnancies.

'Fifteen per cent of pregnant Hong Kong women have GDM during pregnancy,' said Professor Tam Wing-hung, from the university's department of obstetrics and gynaecology. Researchers from both university departments conducted the study from 2001-2008 and also followed up on 164 of the children born to women in the group.

The scientists found that children born to women with GDM had a higher chance of developing health problems in early childhood, with consequences persisting into adolescence. At 15 years old, 'their risks of developing obesity increased by 11 times while the risk of having metabolic syndrome jumped by 18 times', Chinese University paediatrics professor Albert Martin Li said.

Symptoms of metabolic syndrome include high blood pressure, or sleep apnoea - pauses in breathing during sleep.

One of the women in the study had GDM 16 years ago and after taking an oral glucose tolerance test in 2008 was diagnosed with a borderline condition called 'pre-diabetes'.

'When a woman is found to have pre-diabetes, it does not mean she has diabetes, but she does have a high risk of developing diabetes in the future,' Li said.

The woman's 15-year-old daughter also took the glucose tolerance test, and although she was not overweight, she was found to have diabetes.

She does not need to take medication at the moment.