Gestational diabetes and depression are two conditions that can affect women during their pregnancy, but a new study suggests that the two may actually be closely linked. In a study published in the medical journal Diabetologia, researchers from the National Institutes of Health found that women who tested high for depression during pregnancy were also at a greater risk for gestational diabetes.
The study found that women who scored high for depression symptoms in the first and second trimesters had three times the risk of gestational diabetes compared to women who scored low for depression symptoms. It also found that 15 percent of women with gestational diabetes went on to experience postpartum depression, a number that is four times higher than women who did not have gestational diabetes.
While there has long been a connection between Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes and an increased risk of depression, this is the first study to suggest depression could impact gestational diabetes risk, specifically.
“Although this research doesn’t necessarily indicate a cause-and-effect relationship, it does make it clear that there is a two-way relationship between depression and gestational diabetes,” says Jennifer Stuck, DO, OB/GYN at Paoli Hospital, part of Main Line Health.
For care providers, this research means paying close attention to women who have high glucose levels, as well as those who have scored high on depression screening tests. But what does it mean for women?
“A healthy lifestyle is always important during pregnancy but, now that we understand the association between depression and gestational diabetes, it’s even more important. Managing your health can help prevent the onset of one or both of these conditions,” says Dr. Stuck.
If you have been diagnosed with depression…
Your OB/GYN can recommend resources in your community. One-on-one therapy or support groups like those available at Main Line Health’s Women’s Emotional Wellness Center can help you cope with these emotions during and after pregnancy.
It’s also important to closely monitor physical health to prevent gestational diabetes. Your OB/GYN can recommend a healthy diet—one rich in fiber, calcium, iron, protein—that can help keep your blood sugar at a healthy and steady level. Regular exercise and a consistent sleep schedule can also help keep you healthy and improve depression symptoms.
If you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes…
Your OB/GYN will work with you to monitor your health. This includes recommending a healthy diet and safe exercise routines to keep your gestational diabetes under control and prevent it from impacting you, your baby and your delivery.
With the knowledge that gestational diabetes can increase your depression risk, you should be on the lookout for symptoms of depression. These can include sadness or hopelessness, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, difficulty making decisions or thinking, and physical symptoms like frequent headaches or back pain. If you suspect you might have depression, talk to your OB/GYN.
“Depression and pregnancy can have some similar symptoms—like physical aches and pains, changes in appetite, fatigue, or changes in sleeping patterns. But if you’re noticing several of these symptoms, talk to your care provider so that you can work together to treat these symptoms and prevent postpartum depression,” says Dr. Stuck.