New study reinforces link between diabetes and stillbirth risk

After studying 4000 cases, the University of Glasgow found that women with diabetes are 4 times more likely to experience stillbirth. Here we discuss the study's key findings, recommendations and offer reassuring advice for women at risk.

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Pregnancy blog, 06/08/2019

The University of Glasgow has looked at information from 4000 diabetic women to study the effect of diabetes on rates of stillbirth.

"Most women with diabetes have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies, but this research reinforces the importance of supporting women to manage their blood glucose levels if they are planning a pregnancy, in order to reduce their risk of complications as much as possible.”

Dr Emily Burns, Head of Research Communications at Diabetes UK

Key findings

The study, published in Diabetologia journal, found that:

  • Women with type 1 diabetes were more than 3 times more likely to have a stillborn baby. 
  • Women with type 2 diabetes were at least 4 times more likely.

The following factors were found to increase the risk of stillbirth:

  • High blood sugar levels
  • Higher body mass index (BMI)

The results also showed that around 1 in 3 stillbirths happened at full-term (37 weeks).

Read about Tommy's research into how diabetes can affect pregnancy

Suggestions from report

These findings suggest that early delivery might be an option for women at risk. However, more research is needed to consider the time of delivery versus the risk of other complications.

Further recommendations from the study include increasing support for pregnant women with type 2 diabetes to help them manage a healthy weight. Many women are unclear about safe weight management in pregnancy, but it is important for the health of both mum and baby during pregnancy, birth and beyond.

Diabetes and pregnancy

Trying for a baby if you have type 1 or 2 diabetes 

If you're trying to get pregnant and you have diabetes, you should seek advice from a GP or midwife before stopping contraception so they can help you prepare to have the healthiest pregnancy possible.

Find out more about planning a pregnancy with diabetes

Monitoring diabetes during pregnancy 

Although this new research suggests there may be a benefit in giving birth earlier if you are at higher risk of stillbirth, current practice for women with diabetes involves close monitoring and careful management. This applies to women who already have diabetes and those who develop gestational diabetes while pregnant.

Pregnant women who are diabetic will probably be seen more regularly by a consultant and specialist diabetes midwife.

If you're diabetic and pregnant:

  • You should be monitored closely by your healthcare team during your pregnancy and will probably have more regular scans.
  • Make sure you go to all your scheduled appointments.
  • If you are worried that you are not receiving enough care, you should talk to the midwifery manager or professional midwifery advocate. You can ring the maternity unit and ask to speak with them. 
  • Check in with yourself and your body. If you are worried about your glycaemic control or any other factors concerning your diabetes, seek help immediately from your GP, midwife or hospital doctors.
  • Do not wait if you have any concerns, even if you are worried about wasting time. It's best to always ask!
  • Take notice of your baby’s movements and if their pattern has changed in any way.

Gestational diabetes

If you have any of the risk factors for developing gestational diabetes, make sure you have a glucose screen test between weeks 24 and 28. These risk factors include having a BMI of over 30 (your doctor or midwife can help you find out your BMI).

Diabetes information and support

If you're looking for more information about Diabetes, you can visit Diabetes UK.

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