Predicting gestational diabetes in obese pregnant women

Gestational diabetes can carry risks for both mother and baby. Our researchers are looking at whether a new test that can be used in early pregnancy can identify women at risk of developing diabetes, ensuring they get support as soon as possible.
  • Author's list

    Professor Lucilla Poston, Dr Sara White, Paul Seed, Dr Angela Flynn, Jessamine Hunt, Janelle Phillips, Declan Symington, Hayley Tarft, Glen Nishku, Dr Carolyn Gill, Anna Brockbank

    Start date: 2018    
    End date: 2022

  • Research centre

  • Research status

    Ongoing projects

Why do we need this research?

Obesity increases the risk of a woman developing diabetes in pregnancy. This is known as gestational diabetes and can increase the chances of the baby growing too fast or being stillborn. Right now, all obese women are considered to be 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 some women aren’t able to attend the appointment. Secondly, we now know that the test is taken too late in pregnancy, because the metabolism of women with gestational diabetes changes before the 24–28 week mark and so babies may have already started to grow too much.

We want to find a way of identifying women who are at high risk of gestational diabetes earlier in their pregnancies, so that they can get the treatment and support they need.

What’s happening in this project?

Using data from the UPBEAT trial of more than 1,500 women, researchers funded by Tommy’s have developed a simple tool that can be used to identify those obese pregnant women who are most likely to benefit from early interventions (such as diet or tablets) to reduce their chances of developing gestational diabetes. The tool consists of taking clinical information and body measurements – such as age and waist circumference – at a single antenatal appointment, as well as a blood test.

The team are now testing how well the tool works among a multi-ethnic group of obese pregnant women in London. So far, 123 women have agreed to take part in the study.

What difference will this project make?

This study will show whether the new tool can predict early in pregnancy which obese pregnant women are most likely to develop gestational diabetes. This could mean that women at high risk can get treatment to manage their diabetes earlier, thus reducing the risk of complications for them and their babies. It will also mean that women who are found to be at lower risk of diabetes don’t receive unnecessary treatment.

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