Gestational diabetes: Can affect a baby’s genes

A mother looks at her newborn baby.For the vast majority of women with gestational diabetes, good pre- and postnatal health care, including watching diet and weight, ensures that the condition is only temporary. But for a small number of women, the diabetes can become permanent or can reoccur during a future pregnancy.

In the first year after their pregnancy, about 2 percent of women with gestational diabetes will see what they hoped would be a temporary condition turn into permanent type 2 diabetes. And data shows that each following year, another 2 percent of mothers will discover their gestational diabetes has become permanent.

Not only that, the babies of women with gestational diabetes are also at risk, not just of developing type 2 diabetes, but of passing it on to the next generation.

Scientists call this an “epigenetic” process, in which a group of genes may be switched from doing one thing to doing another. In this case, the genes that control type 2 diabetes risk are permanently “switched” in these babies, so their higher risk of developing diabetes is more likely to be passed on to their offspring.

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