Pregnant women are at risk of developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy. This type of diabetes affects not just a woman's pregnancy but also the health of her baby.

Symptoms of gestational diabetes normally disappear post-delivery, however, women who had this type of diabetes during pregnancy have higher risks of developing post-pregnancy type 2 diabetes in succeeding years.

In a British study, researchers found there is a need to improve awareness of post-partum diabetes risk for women who had gestational diabetes. Moreover, there is no current agreement among practitioners for an ideal post-childbirth screening of type 2 diabetes risk. Lastly, there is a need to identify a healthcare provider who will manage such risk.

"Although the majority of clinicians were aware that gestational diabetes is a risk factor, it is worrying that many underestimated or were unsure of the risk," wrote lead author Dr. Girish Rayanagoudar of Queen Mary University, Barts Health NHS Trust in London.

Researchers from the Institute of Diabetes Research (IDF) at Helmholtz Zentrum München in Germany found a way to predict the chances of developing type 2 diabetes post-childbirth. The research team analyzed 257 gestational diabetes cases documented between 1989 and 1999. The patients involved in the study were followed up 20 years following their delivery.

The research found that 110 women developed post-childbirth type 2 diabetes within the 20-year follow-up period. Led by the IDF director, Professor Anette-Gabriele Ziegler, the research team traced the disease's genesis using lab tests.

"Body mass index (BMI) and genetic predisposition both play a role in our calculation, as does the question of whether the mother breastfed her baby and whether her gestational diabetes had to be treated with insulin," said the study's first author Meike Köhler.

The team created a 'point system' that enabled them to calculate a woman's risk of developing post-pregnancy type 2 diabetes. Women with low-risk scores had 11 percent risk of developing diabetes in the five-year period following childbirth. Women with medium-risk scores are at 29 to 64 percent risk. Women with high-risk scores carried over 80 percent risk.

Ziegler noted that the new test could soon be used in a clinical setting to determine the possibility of postpartum type 2 diabetes. The test could help both doctors and patients understand the risk and develop a more personalized diabetes checks to suit the patient's needs.

IDF is one of German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD)'s partners when it comes to diabetes research. The German team published their study in the Acta Diabetologica on Oct. 19.

Photo: Torsten Mangner | Flickr

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