The short answer, as you may have suspected, is yes.
A recent study published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research showed that over 23% of the study participants with a history of gestational diabetes were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes within 9 years, compared to about 9% of the control group. Studies in the United States have put the risk significantly higher, citing 35-60% of women with a history of gestational diabetes developing type 2 diabetes within 10-20 years. So there definitely is an increased risk.
Before you start feeling like the gestational diabetes you have during pregnancy is a sentence for eating only sugar-free desserts for the rest of your life, consider that there are a lot of ways to lower your risk. Most of them don’t even cost anything.
What to do about gestational diabetes during pregnancy:
- Eat a low-glycemic diet (see these websites for more info onand).
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day (check with your doctor or midwife first to make sure it’s ok for you).
- Reduce stress as much as you can, to help your body be able to handle making insulin.
- Eat plenty of essential fatty acids and protein, to provide your body with the materials needed to create hormones.
- Ask your doctor or midwife if supplementing with cinnamon is safe for your situation, or if you can eat more foods containing cinnamon. Cinnamon has been shown in some studies to help the body to be able to process sugars better.
- Carefully follow your doctor’s recommendations about diet, blood sugar monitoring, insulin, etc.
How to reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes postpartum/after pregnancy:
- Continue to eat a low glycemic diet, being certain to include the nutrients necessary for creating hormones.
- Keep a regular exercise program, preferably 30 minutes or more of aerobic activity each day.
- Get tested for diabetes regularly, beginning within 3 months after having your baby, and every 3 years after that.
- Pay attention to your body. Unusual amounts of fatigue, especially in the midafternoon, dizziness, moodiness, and nausea after not eating for some time can all be signs of diabetes or pre-diabetic conditions. Talk to a health care practitioner if you suspect you may be developing diabetes or pre-diabetes.
- Consider seeing a natural health practitioner to help support the pancreas and other organs involved in the endocrine system.
- Ask your doctor if supplementing with cinnamon is safe for you, or if you can eat more foods containing cinnamon. Cinnamon has been shown in some studies to help the body to be able to process sugars better.
- Breastfeed. It can help reduce your baby’s risk for obesity and eventual diabetes, and because of the extra use of calories, may help you as well.
- Achieve and maintain a healthy weight (I know – easier said than done!).
The Pocket Pregnancy Health System (due out as a website and app later in 2012) gives step-by-step guidance to help develop some of the lifestyle habits of low-glycemic eating and exercise which can help not only during your pregnancy, but reduce your risk for diabetes later in life. Until then, you can get more info to help lower your risk at the resources listed below.
A Few Resources for Women with Gestational Diabetes Reducing Risk for Type 2
Ramezani Tehrani, F., Hashemi, S., Hasheminia, M. and Azizi, F. (2012), Follow-up of women with gestational diabetes in the Tehran Lipid and Glucose Study (TLGS): A population-based cohort study. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research, 38: 698–704. doi: 10.1111/j.1447-0756.2011.01767.x