Does being diagnosed with gestational diabetes encourage lifestyle changes?

Our researchers studied whether being diagnosed with diabetes during pregnancy encourages obese women to adopt a healthier lifestyle. The results could help us support these women during pregnancy to reduce the risk of complications which could affect the baby’s health.
  • Author's list

    Dr Sara White, Prof Lucilla Poston, Dr Angela Flynn, Ms La’shay Yeboa-Atakora

This project is now complete

Why do we need this research?

Being obese during pregnancy can increase the chances of complications, including gestational diabetes. This can have a negative impact on the health of both mother and baby. We need to understand how best to help obese pregnant women minimise these risks, so that can give birth to a healthy baby.

What happened in this project?

During the UPBEAT study, more than 1,500 obese pregnant women were encouraged to adopt healthier lifestyles to see if it could help them reduce the risk of complications during pregnancy. Some of these women would go on to be diagnosed with gestational diabetes at the beginning of their third trimester, and others did not.

After the study, our researchers were interested in whether there were any differences in the lifestyles of women who developed gestational diabetes compared to those who didn’t. In other words, did the diagnosis of gestational diabetes had any effect on whether they adopted healthier lifestyles during their third trimester?

After reanalysing the data from UPBEAT, our researchers found that obese women who were diagnosed with gestational diabetes gained less weight and adopted a healthier diet, compared to women who were not diagnosed. On the other hand, being diagnosed did not have any effect on the physical activity done by the women. Our researchers found that the women who were not diagnosed with diabetes continued to gain weight, but their diet did not get worse over time.

What difference will this project make?

The results of this study suggest that being diagnosed with gestational diabetes does make women more likely to adopt healthier lifestyles. Our researchers are now interested in finding out why women who are not diagnosed do not change their lifestyle as readily, and what can be done to help them do so. Ultimately, this work could help us understand how to best help obese women increase their chances of a healthy pregnancy and baby.

Thanks for your interest in our research

Tommy's funds research across the UK investigating the reasons for miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth. We can keep you updated on ways you can support our work. If you would like to join our fight against baby loss and premature birth, click here.