GDM risk can be assessed prior to pregnancy

OAKLAND, Calif. — A woman's risk of developing a type of diabetes typically caused by pregnancy can be identified up to seven years prior to becoming pregnant, according to a new study by Kaiser Permanente.

The study, part of Kaiser Permanente's ongoing research to understand, prevent and treat gestational diabetes mellitus, found that routinely assessing blood sugar and body weight measures can provide women with insight on their risk of developing GDM.

By examining data taken from 580 ethnically diverse women who took part in a multiphasic health checkup at Kaiser Permanente Northern California between 1984 and 1996, researchers at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research found that the risk of GDM directly increased when a number of adverse risk factors commonly associated with diabetes and heart disease (i.e., high blood sugar, hypertension and being overweight) were present before pregnancy.

What's more, the study authors found that adverse levels of blood sugar and body weight were associated with a 4.6 times increased risk of GDM, compared with women with normal levels.

"Our study indicates that a woman's cardio-metabolic risk profile for factors routinely assessed at medical visits, such as blood sugar, high blood pressure, cholesterol and body weight, can help clinicians identify high-risk women to target for primary prevention or early management of GDM," said lead author Monique Hedderson, a research scientist at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research.