Could hormones in the urine help to diagnose gestational diabetes?

Dr Sara White, Dr Norman Taylor, David Taylor, Dr Carolyn Gill, and the UPBEAT consortium

We need better ways to diagnose diabetes early in pregnancy. Our researchers are looking at whether a urine test could spot the early signs of gestational diabetes, and so make sure that treatment can start as soon as possible.

Why do we need this research?

Diabetes diagnosed during pregnancy – also known as gestational diabetes – is more common in obese women. It can lead to problems for both mother and baby, including the baby growing too fast in the womb.

We need to learn more about the causes of gestational diabetes, and find better ways to diagnose it earlier, so that we can treat the condition effectively.

What’s happening in this project?

Hormones produced by the brain and placenta, including oestrogens and progesterones, are known to play a role in how the body adapts to pregnancy. Our researchers believe that these hormones could also be involved in the development of gestational diabetes.

To investigate this, researchers funded by Tommy’s will study urine samples collected during a study called UPBEAT, which involved over 1,500 pregnant obese women. Our researchers are studying urine because, compared to blood tests, a urine test would be much easier for women and for doctors to analyse.

In this project, our scientists will study urine samples donated by 40 women during the UPBEAT study, half of whom were diagnosed with gestational diabetes and half who were not. They will perform an in-depth analysis of the urine samples, looking at various hormones and other substances. The team will look at samples donated both in early pregnancy (15-18 weeks) and later on (around 28 weeks). This will allow the team to look at how the amounts of these chemicals change during pregnancy.

What difference will this project make?

Our researchers hope to find differences between urine samples from women who develop gestational diabetes and those who don’t. If successful, it could eventually lead to a urine test to diagnose the condition at an early stage. This could mean that women at risk of gestational diabetes get the treatment they need as early as possible, to prevent any complications for themselves and their baby.

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