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Superior screening for gestational diabetes

Project summary

Dr Sara White will develop a new test for effective early identification of women who are at risk of gestational diabetes. The test could be available within three years, help to reduce the number of women who develop gestational diabetes and improve health outcomes for mothers and their children.

Background to research

Gestational diabetes (diabetes that is first diagnosed during pregnancy) affects up to 5% of all pregnancies in the UK. Two to five in every 100 women giving birth in England and Wales have diabetes. Most have gestational diabetes, and some have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. The government currently recommends that all obese pregnant women are tested for gestational diabetes because obesity increases an individual’s risk of developing the condition. About one in five women of childbearing age are obese, but only 10-30% of them are likely to develop gestational diabetes. Testing all obese pregnant women for gestational diabetes is therefore a potential waste of time and resources for both pregnant women and healthcare professionals.

Research aims

Dr Sara White aims to develop a new test that will draw on blood tests and information collected during early pregnancy to enable more effective identification of obese pregnant women who are most at risk of gestational diabetes.The new test will be developed using blood samples and clinical data from an existing study that assessed the influence of diet and exercise as a treatment for gestational diabetes. It will draw on clinical information that is routinely collected during antenatal care, as well as newly identified markers measured in the blood. Once the test is finalised, Dr White will trial it in a group of obese pregnant women recruited from another study to determine its accuracy.

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

The new, more reliable test could be made available within three years. It should allow early identification of women at high risk of gestational diabetes during early pregnancy. In turn this will help to reduce the number of women who go on to develop gestational diabetes and allow resources to be targeted more effectively to improve health outcomes for mothers with gestational diabetes and their children (who are placed at a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes in later life). It will also help to improve our understanding of the condition and its prevention.

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