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More accurate prediction tool for gestational diabetes

09 December 2016

Research supported by Diabetes UKhas found a better way of identifying obese women who are at a high risk of developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy.

Simple measurements to predict the risk

The study found that a combination of simple measurements, such as blood pressure and skin fold thickness, together with personal information and family details can accurately predict the risk of gestational diabetes in obese women.

These factors are relatively easy and cheap to measure, and predictions can be made even more accurate if combined with blood tests measuring blood sugar levels.

What is gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that affects pregnant women, usually during the second or third trimester and often goes away after giving birth.  It is usually diagnosed using a blood test 24–28 weeks into a pregnancy.

Having gestational diabetes can increase the risk of complications during pregnancy, and managing blood sugar levels during pregnancy is important for the health of both the mother and baby.

Current situation

Currently all obese pregnant women are considered to be at high risk of developing gestational diabetes, but only around a quarter of them will go on to develop it. The research team wanted to find an accurate way of distinguishing the women truly at high risk, as early in the pregnancy as possible.

They assessed 1303 women, out of which 337 were affected by gestational diabetes, to identify what factors differed the most between the two groups and could be used to predict risk most accurately.

It’s important that women at risk of gestational diabetes are identified, so that they can be offered the best available treatment and support. Present treatments aren’t thought to be very effective, but they might simply not be reaching women who need them the most. 

Lead author, Dr Sara White from King’s College London said: “Clinical use of these tests would enable prompt intervention and correctly target those at highest risk and therefore most likely to benefit.”

Future perspective

This new screening method makes it easier to identify obese women who are truly at risk of developing gestational diabetes, in an accurate and inexpensive way. If a tool like this was used as a standard screening procedure, it could help to ensure that the right support is given to people who need it the most.

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