With more women delaying maternity, gestational diabetes becomes a bigger risk

The age at which many women are becoming pregnant for the first time is being pushed back. This may have a number of important health consequences, not the least of which is an increased risk of developing gestational diabetes.

A 2009 study showed that the average age at which a woman becomes pregnant for the first time is 25, according to CBS News. That number was 21.4 in 1970. Additionally, the number of individuals who become pregnant past the age of 25 is increasingly substantially.

This may significantly increase a woman's risk of gestational diabetes. The Mayo Clinic states that age is the single most important risk factor for developing the condition. In particular, those who are over the age of 25 are at the highest risk.

Furthermore, a recent study published in the journal Diabetes Care showed that gestational diabetes risk increased exponentially with every additional five-year increment. Women who became pregnant over the age of 40 were found to be 31.9 percent more likely to experience the condition during their pregnancy.

The researchers said their findings could provide important evidence to help physicians make recommendations to their female patients about the risk of potentially serious health complications.

Gestational diabetes is known to increase the odds of premature birth, large birth weight, maternal hypertension and a range of other complications that could jeopardize the health of the mother and the baby. The fact that a growing number of women are waiting until later in life to become pregnant could mean there will be a higher prevalence of these disorders.

For those women who decide to wait to become pregnant, taking steps to improve their health may mitigate their risk of gestational diabetes. Eating a nutritious diet, exercising and maintaining a moderate body weight are among the most important things individuals can do.