Gestational diabetes: Mom's health risks linger

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A young mother is sharing her story to protect other moms with gestational diabetes.

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that is first diagnosed during pregnancy. It can affect both the mother and the baby's health.

Previously, many people thought there was nothing to worry about after delivery, but that's not the case.

Ericka Poole was diagnosed with gestational diabetes during both her pregnancies.

"They're my little knights in shining armor," she said of her children.

But after delivery, Woman's Hospital research director Dr. Karen Elkind-Hirsch explained that Poole's journey wasn't over.

Elkind-Hirsch has spent years researching gestational diabetes. Her research provided further proof that many women who had gestational diabetes are still at higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and heart disease in the future.

"While gestational diabetes goes away after you deliver, your risk for Type 2 diabetes does not go away. Think of this as a warning," Elkind-Hirsch said.

Poole took part in two of Elkind-Hirsch's studies. Her treatments involved prediabetic medications and changes to her diet and lifestyle.

"If we treat the prediabetic, we're going to be so much more successful than if we wait until they become diabetic," Elkind-Hirsch said.

In time, Poole's bloodwork improved. Now, she wants to let other moms know that prevention is possible.

"This is incredibly important information," she said. "If we want to tackle heart disease and we want to tackle these things that are taking mothers from their children, then we want to start here."

Elkind-Hirsch recommends that anyone who has been diagnosed with gestational diabetes get bloodwork done after delivery and continue to be monitored by their doctor for diabetes and heart disease.

MEDICAL BREAKTHROUGHS
RESEARCH SUMMARY
TOPIC: GESTATIONAL DIABETES: MOM'S HEALTH RISKS LINGER
REPORT: MB #4644

BACKGROUND: Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that is first seen in a pregnant woman who did not have diabetes before she was pregnant. Some women have more than one pregnancy affected by gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes usually shows up in the middle of pregnancy. Doctors most often test for it between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. Often gestational diabetes can be controlled through eating healthy foods and regular exercise. Sometimes a woman with gestational diabetes must also take insulin. Blood sugar that is not well controlled in a woman with gestational diabetes can lead to problems for the pregnant woman and the baby. (Source: https://www.cdc.gov/pregnancy/diabetes-gestational.html)

TREATMENT: Treatment for gestational diabetes aims to keep blood glucose levels equal to those of pregnant women who don't have gestational diabetes. The treatment always includes special meal plans and scheduled physical activity, and it may also include daily blood glucose testing and insulin injections. Gestational diabetes usually goes away after pregnancy. But once a woman has had gestational diabetes, her chances are two in three that it will return in future pregnancies. In a few women, however, pregnancy uncovers type 1 or type 2 diabetes. It is hard to tell whether these women have gestational diabetes or have just started showing their diabetes during pregnancy, but they will need to continue diabetes treatment after pregnancy. (Source: https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes/gestational-diabetes/how-to-treat-gestational-diabetes)

NEW RESEARCH: Karen Elkind-Hirsch, PhD, Woman's Hospital Research Director at Woman's Hospital in Baton Rouge said, "Breastfeeding really does help because it increases your metabolism. It actually helps you lose weight and keep the diabetes in check. The biggest problem is for a lot of women with gestational diabetes, they have a very hard time having their milk come in. We don't understand why. I always like to make them feel better because sometimes it's very frustrating because they're not making the milk that they should be making. So while breastfeeding is important, it's not for everyone. Short-term medical interventions can help keep the weight off, give their pancreas a chance to recover and get healthier and get back to normal. The research is looking at what is the best combination of medications that are the most effective in helping women. And all the medications we use are FDA-approved medications for diabetes. But we're kind of using them for what we call pre-diabetes and anybody with gestational diabetes is considered a pre-diabetic. So, we're using the step before they actually become diabetic." (Source: Karen Elkind-Hirsch, PhD)