Gestational diabetes is a medical condition that develops during pregnancy. The condition typically resolves after birth, but women who develop gestational diabetes are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later if proper medical care is not provided during the postpartum period. Researchers from the University of Surrey reported the connection at the Diabetes UK Professional Conference in 2013.

Data was collected on about 800 women diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Of the 800 women, only 102 were part of continued postpartum diabetes care. Diabetes care included glucose tests administered at postpartum appointments, based on healthcare guidelines. It is recommended that women in the UK receive glucose testing at the six-week check-up, but continued care includes annual glucose tests to monitor health.

Less than 4% of women suffer from gestational diabetes during pregnancy in Wales and England. Most cases of gestational diabetes are diagnosed in the second trimester. For about five years after giving birth, women with gestational diabetes are in a higher risk category for developing type 2 diabetes. Based upon the results of postpartum glucose testing reported for the study, 8% of glucose tests were abnormal, 2% of women were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and 2% were diagnosed with prediabetes.

The number of patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes has increased exponentially in recent years. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented, in some cases, with early detection, dietary and lifestyle changes. Simon O’Neill, liaison for Diabetes UK, claims early detection is more important than some practitioners and mothers realize: “With gestational diabetes, it is crucial for healthcare professionals to monitor the mother's health closely following the birth of her child. This means those women who are found to be at increased risk of Type 2 diabetes can get the support they need to reduce this risk and ultimately help to prevent the onset of a lifelong condition. For those who do develop Type 2 diabetes, they could get the advice and treatment they need as soon as possible to prevent the complications associated with the condition.”

At this time it appears that no postpartum protocol is in place in the UK regarding diabetic testing and continued monitoring of women diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Treatment protocols need to be established so that all pregnant women with gestational diabetes understand the continued care they need after the baby is born, and practitioners understand the level of care they are expected to provide to postpartum patients.

Source: University of Surrey. "More Than Eight Out Of 10 Women With Gestational Diabetes Missing Out On Crucial Postnatal Care." Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 19 Mar. 2013. Web. 8 May. 2013.