High Rates of Gestational Diabetes Spikes Costs, Poses Health Risks

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
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A recent analysis from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) shows high rates of gestational diabetes among women who gave birth in 2008. The condition that can develop during pregnancy increases hospital costs and poses risks for the mother and newborn.

According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes affects approximately 4 percent of women who are pregnant. The condition is caused by the way hormones affect women during pregnancy that leads to glucose intolerance.

The body's requirements for insulin during pregnancy are high as the baby grows. Gestational diabetes occurs when the pancreas fail to produce enough insulin to keep up with demands. The result is hyperglycemia or high blood sugar. If left untreated, health problems occur. Treating the condition with a healthy diet is important. Obesity can increase the chances of diabetes during pregnancy.

The new report shows 6.4 percent of the 4.2 million women who gave birth in 2008 had diabetes, resulting in higher rates of cesarean section and 55 percent higher hospital costs.

The total estimated cost of hospitalization and treatment for women with pre-existing diabetes or who developed the condition during pregnancy was 1.4 billion dollars - equal to 8.5 percent of all costs related to maternal hospitalization.

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The report from the AHRQ showed 43 percent of billing for pre-existing diabetes during pregnancy was billed to Medicaid, and 36 percent of the cost went to Medicaid for women with gestational diabetes. Private insurers covered the cost of 49 percent and 57 percent respectively for pre-existing diabetes and gestational diabetes. Three to 4 percent of women with diabetes during pregnancy were uninsured.

Pregnant women with diabetes are at higher risk for miscarriage and premature birth. Infants of mothers who have diabetes or develop the condition during pregnancy can suffer low blood sugar at birth, high birth weights that can lead to long-term health problems and difficult deliveries and jaundice.

Women at risk for gestational diabetes include those with a family member with the disease, women over age 25, being overweight and African American, American Indian, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino, or Pacific Islander, according to information from the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC).

The high cost of gestational diabetes found in the report, combined with the health risks for mother and infant, highlight the importance for women to understand their risk factors and engage in early pre-natal diabetes screening and ongoing care.

Source: AHRQ News and Numbers

References:
http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/gestational/
http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/gestational/what-is-gestational-diabetes.html

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