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1 in 10 Moms-to-Be Get Pregnancy-Linked Diabetes

Obesity a major risk factor for condition that causes problems for both mother and baby, experts say
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Obesity has also been linked to insulin resistance, which blunts the effect of insulin and allows blood sugar levels to rise, according to the American Diabetes Association.

"Preventing obesity is a key component of well woman care and diabetes prevention. Furthermore, maintaining a healthy weight throughout the reproductive years benefits women and improves the health of any future pregnancies," DeSisto said.

Acosta agrees that gestational diabetes has become more of a problem than it once was and the increases in obesity may be the reason. Moreover, women who develop the problem are less likely to exercise and eat a healthy diet, he said.

"You have to control your diet. You have to eat healthy. You have to have some level of physical activity, so frequent exercise is important," he said.

If these lifestyle changes don't do the trick, then medications to lower blood sugar, such as insulin, may be used, Acosta said.

Acosta noted that the best treatment is prevention. Women who are even thinking about having children should start eating a healthy diet and exercising as part of their planning, he said.

For the study, DeSisto's team used the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System questionnaire as well as state birth certificate records to compare rates of gestational diabetes from 2007 to 2008 with that of 2009 to 2010. They found no significant difference in the prevalence of gestational diabetes during these years.

It's difficult to know the exact prevalence of gestational diabetes because different medical groups have different definitions for what constitutes gestational diabetes. State reporting of the condition on birth certificates also may vary. The data from this study indicates that the prevalence of gestational diabetes is between 4.6 and 9.2 percent of all pregnancies.

The incidence varies by geographical area, according to the study. Wyoming and Utah had the lowest rates of gestational diabetes, and New York City and Rhode Island had the highest. The authors say most of the state by state difference appears to be related to obesity levels.

The report was published June 19 in Preventing Chronic Disease.

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