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Reducing calories in gestational diabetes

Project summary

Gestational diabetes affects pregnant women and can cause complications throughout pregnancy and birth. It’s linked to mothers being overweight or obese, and can increase the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life for both the mother and child.

Dr Claire Meek believes that reducing calories during pregnancy could improve the management of gestational diabetes, delivery of the baby and reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes in the future. 

Background to research

Gestational diabetes is linked to being overweight or obese, and can cause complications such as having a larger than normal baby. This can lead to a stressful birth or a caesarean section. Although gestational diabetes usually goes away once the baby is born, having gestational diabetes also increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes for the mother and child later on in life.

Most women with gestational diabetes have to change their diet during their pregnancy, but it’s not clear how many calories they should eat. There are concerns that reducing calories in late pregnancy may slow the baby’s growth, or that it might be too late in the pregnancy to see beneficial effects. 

Dr Claire Meek wants to investigate whether a reduced calorie diet in late pregnancy may benefit both the mother and baby, throughout the pregnancy, birth and in the long term.

Research aims

This study will assess if reducing calories during late pregnancy is helpful for women with gestational diabetes, and if it’s better than a standard pregnancy diet.

To do this, Dr Meek will assess babies’ birth weights, delivery methods and the insulin doses the mothers need to control their blood glucose levels. The study will also explore if a reduced calorie diet in pregnancy can improve blood glucose levels after women have given birth. 

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

If successful, this research could establish new, clear calorie targets for pregnant women with gestational diabetes. 

Improving blood glucose levels could mean that mothers can take less insulin during their pregnancy. There is also hope that babies will be of a healthier birth weight, which in turn, will result in less difficult births for mothers and a faster recovery.

In the long run, improving blood glucose levels during gestational diabetes could make for healthier mothers, babies and families by reducing their risk of Type 2 diabetes. 

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