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Preventing problems in pregnancy

Project summary

Women living with type 1 diabetes and their babies can be at a higher risk of difficulties during pregnancy and birth. Professor Claire Meek wants to see whether levels of a molecule found in the blood can help to predict a high-risk pregnancy. Being able to spot potential problems in advance could help women with type 1 and their babies to get the tailored care they need to avoid these problems.

Background to research

Pregnancy can be a very demanding time, but women living with type 1 diabetes face extra challenges. During pregnancy, managing blood sugar levels can be particularly tough, as the target range is even tighter than normal. And there’s a greater risk that the baby could grow too big or be born with low blood sugar levels, and may need intensive care in their first days.  

But at the moment it’s hard to predict which pregnancies are at the highest risk. This means all pregnant women with type 1 are currently offered exactly the same support, and there’s little room for personalised care. 

C-peptide is a molecule found in the blood that can show how well insulin-making beta cells are working. Professor Claire Meek and her team have found that measuring C-peptide levels can identify high-risk pregnancy, and that high levels near the end of pregnancy are linked to difficulties for both mother and baby during birth. 

In this project, Prof Meek wants to figure out how to use this information to make sure mums with type 1 diabetes get the care and support that’s right for them, so their babies can have the best possible start. 

Research aims

Prof Meek and her team will recruit 400 women with type 1 diabetes near the start of pregnancy. During the study they’ll receive standard NHS pregnancy care, but have extra blood tests to measure their C-peptide levels at various points during their pregnancy. This will be done either at hospital appointments or at home, using urine and finger prick blood samples. 

The team will also collect data about diet, activity, weight, insulin doses, and details about the birth and if anything went wrong. They’ll analyse this information to see if any of these factors are linked to problems during pregnancy and birth, and whether C-peptide levels can help to predict if a pregnancy is high-risk. 

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

All women deserve a healthy and happy pregnancy, and difficulties at birth can have life-long effects on both mum and baby. Improving how we can spot high-risk pregnancies would allow us to intervene early, and give extra care and tailored support to women living with type 1 diabetes while they’re pregnant and when their babies are born. 

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