- By Deb Balzer
Mayo Clinic Minute: Long-term health risks of gestational diabetes
Gestational diabetes happens when a woman's body can’t make enough insulin during pregnancy. Most women with gestational diabetes deliver healthy babies; however, there are risks of future complications. Women with gestational diabetes have an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, according to a recent study Dr. Margaret Dow, an OB-GYN at Mayo Clinic, says,"Cardiovascular risk is quite significant."
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All expectant women hope for a healthy pregnancy, but that’s not always possible. Some develop gestational diabetes.
"Gestational diabetes causes vascular damage and can cause excessive weight gain in neonates," says Dr. Dow. "And about two-thirds of women with gestational diabetes will go on to develop Type 2 diabetes in the following two decades."
Dr. Dow says long-term risks of stroke and heart disease significantly increase in women with gestational diabetes.
"It's not just about blood sugar and managing one’s blood sugar," says Dr. Dow. "It's about all the other cardiovascular risks, including the modifiable ones."
Pregnant women can reduce their risks by maintaining a healthy diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and regular exercise.
"One can even start an exercise program during the pregnancy," says Dr. Dow.
Aftercare is just as vital. Dr. Dow says a yearly follow-up after delivery also can reduce health risks.