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Problems in pregnancy

Diabetes UK is aiming to improve the outcomes of pregnancy for women with diabetes by funding new research to reduce the risk of birth defects developing in babies born to women with the condition.

The charity has awarded funding to researchers at Newcastle University to collate information from unique registers of pregnancies in women with diabetes. It is hoped that this research will be able to calculate the risk of common congenital anomalies arising, and to identify which factors can increase this risk. This information could be used to advise and support women with diabetes both before and throughout their pregnancy.

Increased risk

Women with diabetes who become pregnant are five times more likely to have a stillborn baby compared to other women. Their babies are also more likely to be affected by other congenital anomalies, including spina bifida, and heart and kidney problems. It is well established that good blood glucose control before and during pregnancy can reduce this risk, but little is known about what other preventative measures women can take.

A positive impact

Dr Iain Frame, Diabetes UK’s Director of Research, said, "Having diabetes doesn’t mean your baby will automatically develop a congenital anomaly as tight blood glucose control can greatly reduce this risk. However, with one in 250 pregnancies occurring in women with diabetes, diabetes is the most common pre-existing condition cared for during pregnancy. It is therefore a vital area of research that needs to be focused on to ensure these women are provided with the best care and support they need.

"Many of the risks women and their babies face can be reduced if they receive the appropriate preconception care and are supported to achieve good blood glucose control during their pregnancy. This is why Dr Bell’s work at Newcastle University could have such a positive impact. In a very short time frame, the information gained from this study has the potential to improve the advice and support given to women with diabetes who are planning a pregnancy as well as those who are already pregnant."

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