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South Asian Women at Risk for Gestational Diabetes

By January 24, 2012

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Gestational Diabetes is a growing problem for all populations, but for South-Asian women, the risk of Gestational Diabetes is even higher.  According to the National Institutes of Health, rates of diabetes range from 2-10% of all pregnancies, though the average is usually reported at 7%.  However, for South-Asian women (women from Indian, Pakistan, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Bangledesh) get gestational diabetes at a rate of 14% of all pregnancies.

As Dr. Prasanna Menon discussed in India West's Ask the Doctor column, Gestational Diabetes (GDM) isn't just a condition of pregnancy.  Up to 1/3 of women with GDM will go on to develop Type 2 Diabetes, and have a higher-than-average risk of stroke.  Menon recommends that South Asian women do everything possible to reduce their risk factors for diabetes before pregnancy to ensure the healthiest outcomes for both mother and baby.

Menon also discussed the newest guidelines recommended by the International Association of Diabetes and Pregnancy Study Groups, which have been endorsed by the American Diabetes Association.  The IADPSG and the ADA now recommend women be screened for gestational diabetes at their first prenatal visit, and then again during the second trimester.  Typically, women are only screened during the second trimester, at approximately 28 weeks.

We already know any type of diabetes can be a major risk factor during pregnancy.  It's been linked with miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm labor, fetal heart defects and neural tube defects, polyhydramnios, and high blood pressure, just to name some of the complications.  Earlier screening could mean better control of gestational diabetes, and potential prevention of the complications for both mother and baby.  With the growing diabetes problem of all types in all ethnic groups, maybe the time has come for more stringent screening guidelines.

If you have any of the known risk factors for diabetes, discuss them with your doctor, whether you're trying to get pregnant, are currently pregnant, or have just had a pregnancy loss.  You may benefit from a screening test.

Risk factors include:

  • obesity
  • sedentary lifestyle
  • family history of diabetes
  • being over 35 at the time of pregnancy
  • high blood pressure
  • history of gestational diabetes in another pregnancy

Recommended Reading:
Diabetes and Pregnancy Loss
Indian Cuisine for Diabetics
Diabetes Treatment for Two

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