There's a vitally important screening test that expectant and new moms need to protect their babies' health and their own. So it's shocking to learn from a recent study just how often this test is omitted. We're talking about screening for diabetes during and after pregnancy. What women must know…

Gestational diabetes develops when a pregnant woman's blood sugar is too high and her body cannot make and use all the insulin it needs. Based on updated diagnostic criteria, the American Diabetes Association now estimates that this condition affects 18% of pregnancies-a far higher percentage than previously believed.

Walking Just a Half-Mile a Day Helps Fight Diabetes

Researchers studied the health outcomes of 592 adults without diabetes who wore pedometers to measure their steps on two typical days five years apart.

Result: Every half-mile increase in daily steps (about 1,000 steps) was associated with a lower body mass index (BMI), a ratio of weight to height, and higher insulin sensitivity, which keeps blood sugar levels in check. Even a moderate amount of exercise helps prevent diabetes.

Risks: Unless diagnosed and controlled, gestational diabetes increases the mother's risk for high blood pressure and triples the likelihood that a cesarean delivery will be also doubles the baby's risk for serious injury at birth, quadruples the odds of being admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit, and increases the child's risk for obesity and diabetes in adulthood. For most women with gestational diabetes, the condition goes away after childbirth, but about 10% develop type 2 diabetes-a chronic and potentially deadly condition during the postpartum period. That's why the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that all pregnant women get tested for gestational diabetes between the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy and that all those diagnosed with gestational diabetes get retested six to 12 weeks after delivery.

Alarming recent findings: Analyzing data on 924,873 women from pregnancy through six months after delivery, researchers found that 32% were never tested for gestational diabetes.. and, worse, that 81% of women who had been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, and therefore should have been screened for postpartum diabetes, did not receive the test.

Based on recent studies, the International Association of Diabetes and Pregnancy Study Groups now recommends that doctors use the 75-8 oral glucose tolerance test to screen for diabetes. If you are pregnant or postpartum, discuss this with your obstetrician.

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