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Treating even mild gestational diabetes reduces birth complications
Date:9/30/2009

abetes occurs when pregnant women who did not have any signs or symptoms of diabetes before they were pregnant develop high blood sugar levels. The condition affects from 1 to 14 percent of all U.S. pregnancies. Gestational diabetes is not well understood, but is thought to occur when hormones produced during pregnancy interfere with the body's ability to use insulin to absorb sugar from the blood.

In most cases, treatment for gestational diabetes consists of lowering blood sugar levels through proper diet and exercise. If diet and exercise alone fail to lower blood sugar levels, women may be treated with drugs that increase the body's ability to use insulin, or may be prescribed insulin itself.

The current study is the first to test whether treatment for mild gestational diabetes is beneficial. The researchers defined mild gestational diabetes as having normal blood sugar levels after fasting but abnormally high levels in at least two readings over the course of three hours after an oral glucose tolerance test, in which women consume a sugary drink. Severe diabetes was defined as high blood sugar levels even after fasting.

To conduct the study, the researchers enrolled 958 women with mild gestational diabetes. Roughly half were treated for their diabetes and half were not, receiving only standard pregnancy care.

In their statistical analysis of the study results, the researchers combined several serious potential outcomes into one figure, to represent a single and primary outcome. The primary outcome consisted of all cases of newborn death, stillbirth, newborns with low blood sugar or with high insulin levels, birth-related injuries, and high bilirubin levels (an indicator of newborn jaundice). In terms of the primary outcome, there were no differences between the two groups of women. But the women who received treatment fared significantly better than the untreated women on other measures.

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Contact: Robert Bock
bockr@mail.nih.gov
301-496-5133
NIH/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
Source:Eurekalert

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