Often attributed to poor diet and exercise habits and the obesity epidemic in our country, diabetes, a serious condition where the body does not respond properly to sugar, has become more common in recent years. Nearly 8 percent of the U.S. population is already diagnosed with the disease, and almost 18 million more people unknowingly have it.

Because diabetes can lead to increased risks for congenital abnormalities, death of the developing fetus, and large babies (a condition called macrosomia), all pregnant women should be screened for it. Women with diabetes have much higher infection rates after they deliver their babies, and macrosomic babies often require delivery by cesarean section and are at higher risk for other complications at delivery and following birth.

Ideally, diabetes should be identified before pregnancy, especially in women with a family history. But all pregnant women should be tested between 25 and 28 weeks of pregnancy for the disease. If diabetes is discovered before or during pregnancy, the patient's doctor will make recommendations for dietary adjustments, use of diabetic medications and other lifestyle changes. Because untreated diabetes can cause tremendous health problems for both mother and child, it is critical that the pregnant woman monitors her diet and follows the treatment prescribed by her doctor if she is diagnosed with the disease. And the best way for an expectant mother to prevent the onset of diabetes during pregnancy is to eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly, to ensure weight gain is within the suggested range for her particular pregnancy.

• Dr. Michael Urig is chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center. For more information on this topic, talk with your doctor, or call Dr. Urig's Ahwatukee office at (480) 759-9191.

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