Hundreds of people living with diabetes, their families and healthcare professionals have chosen their most important research priorities for diabetes in pregnancy. The top ten priorities – announced today at the Diabetes UK Professional Conference online series – will help to guide future research in diabetes and pregnancy to make sure it has the greatest possible benefit for women living with the condition.
Around 38,000 women who give birth in the UK each year have some form of diabetes. While many women have healthy babies, we know that diabetes can increase the risk of complications for the mother and baby – both during pregnancy and later in life. Despite this, there’s still a lot we don’t know about diabetes and pregnancy, or what matters most to people living with the condition.
The Diabetes and Pregnancy Priority Setting Partnership (PSP), led by the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit (NPEU) at University of Oxford, wanted to change this. They set to find out the key research questions that are most important to people with diabetes – both before, during and after pregnancy - and give them a louder voice in research.
“Healthcare research is often led by industry and researchers. But there can be a mismatch between the research they do and the issues that are most important for people living with the condition, or those that support them".
Dr Goher Ayman, project co-lead at NPEU
Whittling down to a top ten
Over 18 months, the team heard from hundreds of women with diabetes, their families and support networks, and healthcare professionals. They started off with over 1,100 submitted questions and worked to whittle them down to a shortlist of the most important. Last month, this shortlist was taken to a virtual workshop where a group of volunteers jointly came to a decision on the top ten research priorities. And here they are:
- How can diabetes technology be used to improve pregnancy, birth, and mother and child health outcomes?
- What is the best test to diagnose diabetes in pregnant women?
- For women with diabetes, what is the best way to manage blood sugar levels using diet and lifestyle during pregnancy?
- What are the emotional and mental well-being needs of women with diabetes before, during, and after pregnancy, and how can they best be supported?
- When is it safe for pregnant women with diabetes to give birth at full term compared with early delivery via induction or elective caesarean?
- What are the specific postnatal care and support needs of women with diabetes and their infants?
- What is the best way to test for and treat diabetes in late pregnancy i.e. after 34 weeks?
- What is the best way to reduce the risk or prevent women with gestational diabetes developing other types of diabetes any time after pregnancy?
- What are the labour and birth experiences of women with diabetes, and how can their choices and shared decision making be enhanced?
- How can care and services be improved for women with diabetes who are planning pregnancy?
Identifying the top ten research priorities for diabetes in pregnancy is only the beginning. We now need to find the answers and make sure research makes a real difference for women with diabetes and their families. PSPs have a proven track record of stimulating vital research and greater investment. The priorities will now be shared with scientists, funding bodies and research institutes, so that they can influence the research agenda. “When these priorities are acted on, we are making sure that research will deliver the most impact and value for women and their families, closing the loop of the process”, explains Dr Ayman.
The Diabetes and Pregnancy PSP was led by the University of Oxford in partnership with Diabetes UK, the James Lind Alliance, JDRF the type 1 diabetes research charity and Diabetes Research and Wellness Foundation. You can find out more here.