We know that diabetes and other metabolic disorders can lead to poorer outcomes in pregnancy. If a woman develops diabetes in pregnancy – known as gestational diabetes – she is more likely to suffer from pre-eclampsia, premature birth or give birth to a ‘larger-than-normal’ baby.
Obese mothers-to-be are three times more likely to get diabetes during pregnancy, and are also at higher risk of having high blood pressure, a stillbirth or miscarriage, or of experiencing problems during labour such as heavy bleeding.
Babies of obese mothers have a higher risk of being overweight, and a greater chance of having diabetes and heart problems later in life.
Supporting women in pregnancy with diabetes, obesity and metabolic disorders
The Tommy’s Diabetes Research Clinic at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust helps women with gestational or pre-existing diabetes, as well as those with metabolic disorders or obesity.
We carry out vital research in the hope of improving experiences and pregnancy outcomes, not just for the women attending our clinic, but for women nationally and internationally. We are also investing in the development of future researchers.
The driving force for diabetes screening
Our clinic has been a driving force for the adoption of universal screening for all women in the UK who are thought to be at risk of developing gestational diabetes. At Guy’s and St Thomas’, this screening strategy has increased the detection rate of gestational diabetes threefold, and we have seen a drop in the rate of interventions such as induction of labour.
In fact, we are now seeing similar pregnancy outcomes for women with and without gestational diabetes who are treated at our centre, especially for mode of birth and birthweight.
Making pregnancy safer for those with diabetes
We are an active research centre that recruits women into many different clinical studies that help to explain why diabetes, obesity and metabolic disorders can cause problems in pregnancy, and how outcomes can be improved.
One of our scientists, Professor Helen Murphy, recently led a study that showed that continuous glucose monitors help pregnant women with type 1 diabetes to better control their glucose levels, leading to a reduction in the number of babies born too large and in the number of babies being admitted to Neonatal Intensive Care Units.
As a result, NICE is formally reviewing their guidelines for the use of continuous glucose monitors in pregnant women with type 1 diabetes, meaning our study could have national implications.
We also want to improve pregnancy outcomes internationally, and are currently finding out whether we can reduce the number of stillbirths in Brazil by improving screening for babies that do not seem to be growing properly in the womb.
We are proud that the Tommy’s Diabetes Research Clinic continues to perform high-quality research that is relevant nationally and internationally. We continue to pursue our aim of giving all women with diabetes, obesity or a metabolic disorder a better experience of pregnancy, with improved outcomes for their babies.