gestational diabetes

Women with gestational diabetes are more likely to return to a healthy weight following their pregnancy if they are given supported lifestyle interventions, according to new research.

The study, conducted at the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research, could provide at least a partial solution to one of the major problems associated with gestational diabetes – the significantly increased risk of type 2 diabetes later in life. Some studies have estimated that women with gestational diabetes are as much as seven times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.

Known as the Gestational Diabetes Effects on Moms study (GEM), the research involved 1,087 women, all of whom had gestational diabetes. 1,193 were given standard care. The 1,087 received coaching via telephone (from a trained lifestyle coach) and through direct mail.

In the six months following the birth of their baby, women who received specialised  care were 45 per cent more likely to meet weight goals. These weight goals were determined based on the woman’s weight before pregnancy. If the participant was of a healthy weight before pregnancy, the goal was to get back to their pre-pregnancy weight. If the participant was overweight or obese before pregnancy, they aimed for a five per cent reduction in pre-pregnancy weight levels. The women who received specialised care also took part in more exercise, on average – 15.4 minutes more per week.

“The GEM study is unique in that it was a trial embedded in real-world practice. Our findings show the benefits of lifestyle intervention diabetes prevention programs in helping women with gestational diabetes manage their weight and increase physical activity, thereby potentially preventing or delaying the onset of diabetes,” said Assiamira Ferrara, MD, PhD, section chief of Women’s and Children Health at the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research, and lead author of the study.

Yvonne Crites, MD, perinatologist at Kaiser Permanente’s Santa Clara Medical Centre and medical director of the Perinatal Centre, added: “This study’s findings will inform how we help Kaiser Permanente members who had gestational diabetes reduce their chances of developing type 2 diabetes.”

Monique M. Hedderson, research scientists with the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research, and study co-author, is positive that the research “suggests a potential for great impact if we can improve patient engagement and participation in such lifestyle interventions.”

The findings are published in Diabetes Care.