On its own, diabetes is already a chronic disease. But when it teams up with obesity, form an even more frightening duo. More so, when the people afflicted with these diseases are pregnant women. Based on research published in The Journal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine, these conditions pose higher health risks and can lead to serious pregnancy, childbirth, and newborn health complications.

Obesity, as well as Type 2 diabetes, has skyrocketed in women who are of childbearing age. In the US alone, the rate of adult women with obesity has increased by 35% from 2006 to 2007, as reported by The Journal of the American Medical Association. Moreover, approximately 11 percent of women beyond the age of 20 had diabetes in 2010 as reported by the CDC. For a long time, diabetes has been a disease typically associated with older people but these findings have raised a red flag.    

Studies have linked obesity to pregnancy complications like premature birth, birth trauma, loss of blood and extended hospital stay. However, little is known about type 2 diabetes and the complications that could arise when these two diseases coexist. Researchers from Rochester sought to find out whether its obesity or diabetes that poses a greater threat in this "dual-diagnosis" group.

A research study using mathematical models was conducted on the effects of obesity and type 2 diabetes in pregnancy. Age, cigarette use and other outside factors were monitored. A group of medical experts picked 213 pairs of women who gave birth in a medical center from 2000 to 2008.  Most women in the study had weight problems. Diabetic women were paired with non-diabetic patients with approximately the same pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI). Research showed that women who have type 2 diabetes tend to have more pregnancy complications like preeclampsia, pre-term delivery, and cesarean delivery.  Compared to their BMI-matched partners, diabetic pregnant women had higher risks of shoulder dystocia, fetal problems, large for gestational age infants and being admitted to the NICU or neonatal intensive care unit.  

Pregnancy makes a woman susceptible to health complications. Needless to say, a pregnant woman should do whatever she can to protect her health and that of her unborn child, from eating the right foods and exercising to maintaining an ideal weight and blood sugar level. Researchers hope that the results from the study will help doctors have a deeper understanding of how to deal with these two diseases affecting pregnant women.

Source: The Journal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine. Kristin M. Knight, Eva K. Pressman, David N. Hackney, Loralei L. Thornburg. 25 July 2011.