Start date: 2018
End date: 2020
Why do we need this research?
Obesity is known to increase the risk of developing diabetes in pregnancy, known as gestational diabetes. It can lead to problems such as the baby growing too fast in the womb, and can increase the chances of stillbirth. But right now, all obese women are considered to be at high risk, despite the fact that more than 70% of these women will be free from diabetes during pregnancy.
Gestational diabetes is currently diagnosed between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy using an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). However, this test has two major drawbacks: firstly, the OGTT is time consuming, meaning women often aren’t able to attend the appointments. Secondly, we now know that the test is taken too late in pregnancy, because the changes to the metabolism and excessive fetal growth caused by diabetes have already started before the 24-28 week mark.
We want to find a better way to identify women who are at high risk of gestational diabetes, earlier than we’re currently able to. This will means mothers who will benefit the most get the treatment they need.
What’s happening in this project?
To address this need for an early pregnancy gestational diabetes test, researchers supported by Tommy’s have developed a simple tool using data from the UPBEAT trial of more than 1,500 women. It has been designed to identify which obese women are most likely to benefit from early intervention (such as diet or tablets) to reduce the risk of diabetes for them and their babies. The team are now testing the tool in in a multi-ethnic urban population in London.
What difference will this project make?
This study will show whether the tool our researchers have developed can assess a woman’s risk of gestational diabetes earlier than currently possible. This could mean that women at high risk can get treatment to manage their diabetes earlier, to reduce the risk of complications for them and their baby. It’ll also mean that women who are found to be at lower risk of diabetes don’t get treatment they don’t need.
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Tommy's funds research across the UK investigating the reasons for pregnancy complications and loss. If you're interested in being kept updated about our research and news from Tommy's, click here.
More research projects
In this Q&A, we sit down and chat with with Tom Willmott, a researcher based at Tommy’s Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre in Manchester. He gives a rare insight into a novel and exciting area of pregnancy health research, known as ‘maternal microbiology’, looking at what we can learn by studying bacteria in the mouths of mums-to-be.
A recently published article, co-authored by Professor Catherine Williamson from Tommy’s Research Centre at King’s College London, suggests that certain pregnancy complications can indicate future health issues for women.
Tommy’s has received a grant from the UK Government’s Department for Health and Social Care to support the costs of its PregnancyHub information and support services throughout the summer, due to rising demand in the wake of coronavirus.
Although recruitment to some clinical trials had to be paused when coronavirus hit the UK, scientists at Tommy’s Research Centres across the UK are still hard at work, supporting women and families in our specialist clinics and sharing their latest studies with academic journals.