Gestational diabetes provides a warning sign for increased risk of chronic diseases later in life



Each year, between two and ten percent of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes, an inability to properly process blood sugar that usually ends soon after giving birth. These women have a substantially increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in their lives. However, little is understood about their risk for other chronic conditions and how advancement to subsequent diabetes alters this risk.


By analyzing historical data and prospective data from the Diabetes & Women’s Health Study, IRP researchers led by Cuilin Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., demonstrated that women with gestational diabetes have an increased risk for developing kidney and cardiovascular disease, particularly heart attack and stroke. In addition, the researchers observed that these high-risk women may be able to reduce their chances of developing cardiovascular disease by following a healthy lifestyle in the years after giving birth. Notably, gestational diabetes may also be an early indicator of subsequent subclinical kidney impairment, even in the absence of diagnosed type 2 diabetes.


These findings suggest that women who develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy may represent a high-risk group that could benefit from regular monitoring for diseases such as cardiovascular and kidney disease. Timely detection of such conditions may allow clinicians to initiate treatment to prevent or delay further disease progression.


Rawal S, Olsen SF, Grunnet LG, Ma RC, Hinkle SN, Granström C, Wu J, Yeung E, Mills JL, Zhu Y, Bao W, Ley SH, Hu FB, Damm P, Vaag A, Tsai MY, Zhang C. (2018). Gestational Diabetes and Renal Function: A Prospective Study with 9 to 16 Year Follow-up after Pregnancy. Diabetes Care. Jul;41(7):1378-1384.

Tobias DK, Stuart JJ, Li S, Chavarro J, Rimm EB, Rich-Edwards J, Hu FB, Manson JE, Zhang C. (2017). Association of history of gestational diabetes with long-term cardiovascular disease risk in a large prospective cohort of US women. JAMA Internal Medicine. Dec 1;177(12):1735-42.

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This page was last updated on Friday, June 9, 2023