We strongly support legislation which calls for additional resources for the tracking and surveillance of gestational diabetes (GDM) and also for gestational diabetes research. This funding is vital in our efforts to reduce the incidence of gestational diabetes and prevent women afflicted with this condition and their children from developing type 2 diabetes later on in their lives.
Up to 18 percent of all pregnancies in the U.S. are affected by gestational diabetes – when the body is not able to make and use all the insulin it needs during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes has dangerous health consequences for both mother and her child, including increased risk of preterm delivery, caesarian section, neonatal hypoglycemia and preeclampsia. It also dramatically raises the chances of the mother and the baby facing a future with type 2 diabetes and its complications including blindness, kidney failure, and amputation.
The increase in obesity has played a role in rising rates of gestational diabetes, but genetics, ethnicity and maternal age also count as risk factors. For instance, compared to non-Hispanic white women, Asian American women are 177 percent more likely and Hispanic women are almost 50 percent more likely to test positive for the condition. And while African American women are less likely to develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy, for those women who do, they face a 52 percent increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future compared to white women diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
We recommend screening all pregnant women for gestational diabetes because of its serious risks; however, a recent study by Quest Diagnostics found that only 68 percent of all pregnant women were screened. Worse yet, only one out of five women diagnosed with gestational diabetes received the appropriate follow-up test after pregnancy. We clearly need a focused way of addressing this vital health issue, yet minimal effort is being put into public health research around gestational diabetes, and tracking women with, or those at risk of, developing it.
Gestational Diabetes Act of 2013
We support the Gestational Diabetes (GEDI) Act of 2013, bipartisan legislation introduced in the House of Representatives by Representatives Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Michael Burgess (R-TX) and by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Susan Collins (R-ME) in the Senate. The legislation provides for better data collection and expands the resources available to fight this dangerous disease. The GEDI Act also encourages postpartum follow-up after gestational diabetes and provides grants that will focus on reducing the incidence of gestational diabetes, the recurrence of gestational diabetes in subsequent pregnancies, and the development of type 2 diabetes in women with a history of gestational diabetes.