Could hormones in the urine help to diagnose gestational diabetes?

We need better ways to diagnose diabetes early in pregnancy. Our researchers are looking at whether a urine test could be used to spot the early signs of gestational diabetes so that treatment can start as soon as possible.
  • Author's list

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

    Start date: 2020
    End date: 2021

  • Research centre

  • Research status

    Ongoing projects

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 are studying urine samples collected from 40 women during a large study called UPBEAT. Half of these women were diagnosed with gestational diabetes and half were not. The team are performing an in-depth analysis of the urine samples, looking at various hormones and other substances, to see if there are any differences between the samples from the two groups of women. They are looking 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.

Our researchers are studying urine, rather than blood, because a urine test would be simpler for women and easier for doctors to analyse.

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 may eventually be possible to develop 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, helping to prevent any complications for themselves and their baby.

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