African Americans who experience gestational diabetes are at risk for metabolic problems later in life

Developing gestational diabetes can be a scary experience for a woman. Many wonder if it will mean they will have metabolic problems later in life. Thankfully, the condition generally clears up after delivery, and most individuals never experience any further health problems, though gestational diabetes does come with a slightly increased risk.

However, the chances of developing type 2 diabetes later in life may be particularly high for African American women who experience gestational diabetes, according to a new study published in the journal Diabetologia.

A team of researchers from Kaiser Permanente tracked the health of more than 77,000 women who gave birth between 1995 and 2009. The results showed that African Americans who experienced gestational diabetes during their pregnancy were 52 percent more likely to have type 2 diabetes later in life, compared to Caucasian women.

The researchers said their findings should underscore the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle after delivery for African American women diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

"All women diagnosed with gestational diabetes should be screened for diabetes soon after their delivery and subsequently at regular intervals. These women would benefit from lifestyle changes such as changes in diet and increases in physical activity that can reduce diabetes risk," said lead researcher Anny Xiang, stressing that this is particularly true for African Americans.

Gestational diabetes and type 2 diabetes share many of the same risk factors, including obesity and an unhealthy lifestyle. Therefore, even though gestational diabetes may clear up after pregnancy, the conditions that contributed to it most likely will not. This is why it is so important for individuals who have experienced the pregnancy-related metabolic problem to take steps to improve their lifestyle.