Women who develop gestational diabetes are more likely to experience early stages of kidney damage later in life, new findings suggest.
US researchers have highlighted how this discovery should lead to greater monitoring by healthcare professionals, to help prevent kidney damage occurring in later life.
Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy, and can lead to type 2 diabetes without appropriate interventions. But keeping good control of blood sugar levels and eating healthily can reduce this risk and improve health.
Scientists from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development examined 607 women with gestational diabetes and 619 women without the condition, all from the Danish National Birth Cohort.
Over a 13-year follow-up period, early renal (kidney) impairment – specifically, higher estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR), a measure of kidney function – was more commonly observed among Danish women with gestational diabetes compared to pregnant women without the condition.
This association remained even if the women with gestational diabetes did not develop type 2 diabetes following pregnancy. However, after adjustment for prepregnancy BMI and hypertension (high blood pressure), gestational diabetes was not significantly associated with clinical signs of kidney damage.
The researchers also discovered that only those women who developed type 2 diabetes went on to experience kidney damage. Consequently, they hypothesise that while deterioration of kidney function may precede type 2 diabetes development in women with gestational diabetes, clinically relevant indicators of kidney damage may only appear once type 2 diabetes has been diagnosed.
“These findings suggest that women with [gestational diabetes]-complicated pregnancies may represent a high-risk group that could benefit from regular monitoring for early-stage renal damage, timely detection of which may help clinicians initiate treatment to prevent or delay further disease progressio,” said the researchers.
The study results appear online in the journal Diabetes Care.

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