Task force recommends pregnancy screening for gestational diabetes

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- A problem during pregnancy seems to be increasing as more women are overweight or having children later in life. A government task force is finally recommending screening all pregnant women for gestational diabetes.

Tara Winkler and her husband just welcomed their fifth child at Overland Park Regional Medical Center. With this pregnancy and the last, there was some extra concern.

"Just like oh, my gosh, my health has impacted the health of my child," said Winkler.

Winkler had gestational diabetes. It's typically identified after 24 weeks of pregnancy with a blood test. Even though doctors have done the screening for years, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is just now recommending it, saying there's enough evidence that it significantly reduces risks for mother and baby.

"This just lends more validity to our current practice," said Dr. Errick Arroyo of Kansas City Ob/Gyn.

He knows that diagnosing diabetes means moms-to-be can get treated with dietary changes and, in some cases, medication. That reduces risks which include having a big baby. Think of the news stories you've seen of women having 13 or 14-pound babies.

"I think first and foremost that they have uncontrolled gestational diabetes," said Dr. Arroyo.

There's higher risk of trauma at birth for mom and baby, and lifelong weight problems for the baby.

Because of gestational diabetes, Winkler had to give birth to her newborn, Ephraim, a week early. He was already eight pounds, four ounces.

"If he had gone a week longer, who knows," said Winkler.

Both mom and baby are healthy although having gestational diabetes means Winkler has a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, a disease that runs in her family.

Doctors say that being at a healthy weight going into pregnancy, eating right and exercising can lower the chances of developing gestational diabetes.

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