Women who develop gestational diabetes and high blood pressure during their pregnancy are at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes once they have given birth, research has suggested.
The scientists from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) stressed the importance, however, of making positive lifestyle changes which can help reduce this risk.
The study was based on 64,000 medical records in Canada, which explored the combined link of gestational diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure) in pregnancy with future health risks.
Previous work has already shown separate associations between gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, but researchers wanted to see how the first two conditions affected future health when they develop together.
Senior author Kaberi Dasgupta, associate professor of medicine at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC), said: “We found quite a dramatic combined effect. Having either of the conditions increased a woman’s risk for diabetes in the future by 15 times. But if the woman had both of them it increased her risk of diabetes by 37 times.”
First study author Dr Romina Pace said: “Knowing this will allow physicians to identify mothers at risk and to work with them to make lifestyle changes in an effort to help reduce those risks.”
Interestingly, the researchers also followed up with the fathers of the babies too, in a bid to see whether the woman’s health problems during her pregnancy affected them.
Dr Pace added: “We found there were increased risks in the father as well. This shared risk is an important finding because it can help promote collaboration between partners to make lasting lifestyle changes in the household together.”
Gestational diabetes is a temporary condition which develops during pregnancy if blood sugar levels are too high. It often occurs during the woman’s third trimester and can be controlled by following a healthy diet and keeping blood sugar levels under control.
The findings of the study have been published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

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