SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 29: Tessa Thulien of San Francisco, who is 39 weeks pregnant and has gestational diabetes, poses for a portrait at her home in San Francisco, Calif., on March 29, 2021. Pregnant women in California are, like Thulien, increasingly facing a gestational diabetes diagnosis. The disorder’s unrelenting ascent has alarmed medical providers, and spurred a range of efforts to address the problem. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)

Gestational diabetes rates during pregnancy on the rise

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Tessa Thulien of San Francisco was mortified when she found out she had gestational diabetes, a blood sugar disorder diagnosed during pregnancy.

Six months pregnant with her first child, Thulien immediately blamed herself. Was it the coffee and dessert she had over the holidays? Perhaps she should have worked out five times a week, instead of three?

It just felt incongruent,” said the 35-year-old tech worker, who takes pride in staying fit and eating vegetarian. I was like, I’m not leading this unhealthy lifestyle. It was just like, oh, I don’t understand how I can have it.”

Pregnant women in California are, like Thulien, increasingly facing a gestational diabetes diagnosis. The disorder’s unrelenting ascent has alarmed medical providers, and spurred a range of efforts to address the problem.

In 2004, only about one in 20 pregnant women in the state tested positive for the disorder, according to the California Department of Public Health. By 2018, the most recent year for which data is available, almost one in eight pregnant women had a gestational diabetes diagnosis, according to data provided by Laura Jelliffe-Pawlowski, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco, who is part of a team analyzing state records on pregnancy complications for research aimed at addressing racial disparities in preterm birth.

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