Landon said that the reduction of many of the birth complications resulted from the mother's blood sugar being under control, which doesn't cause overnourishment of the baby and thus the baby's size stays closer to normal.
Neither Landon nor Sacks could explain the reduction in preeclampsia and high blood pressure. Sacks theorized that because both diabetes and high blood pressure are inflammatory processes, what helps reduce one might also help the other. But, he added, no one really knows right now.
What is clear, said Dr. Miriam Greene, an obstetrician and gynecologist at NYU Langone Medical Center, is that "when women with mild gestational diabetes are treated well, there's a decreased incidence of birth trauma." Greene said that she's already been treating women with the mildest forms of gestational diabetes, and that it does make a difference.
Sue McLaughlin, president of health care and education for the American Diabetes Association, said that the study provides "another example of how preventive health care pays off in positive health outcomes and may save lives, dollars in the health-care system and improve the quality of life in future years for these families."
According to McLaughlin, "Physicians need to take a proactive role in educating women of childbearing age about their risk for this condition so that women can implement healthy lifestyle behaviors, which promote weight control and prevention of excessive weight gain in this and future pregnancies."
The American Diabetes Association has more on gestational diabetes.
SOURCES: Mark B. Landon, M.D., professor and interim chairman, obstetrics and gynecology, Ohio State University Medical Center, Columbus, Ohio; David A. Sacks, M.D., maternal-fetal medicine specialist, Kaiser Foundation Hospital, Bellflower, Calif.; Miriam Greene, M.D., obstetrician/gynecologist, NYU Langone Medical Center, New York City, and clinical assistant professor, NYU School of Medicine, New York City; Sue McLaughlin, R.D., president, health care and education, American Diabetes Association, Alexandria, Va.; Oct. 1, 2009, New England Journal of Medicine