Doctors develop better test to identify gestational diabetes risk in obese women

by Barbara Hewitt on December 20, 2016

A team of researchers in the UK has developed a new test to identify the risk facing obese women of developing diabetes in pregnancy.

The method developed by the scientists from King’s College London is regarded as being more accurate and is likely to help a lot of women as obesity is a major risk factor for gestational diabetes.

Gestinational DiabetesIn 2014, around seven million women in the UK were classified as obese. By 2025, it is expected to affect one in five women in the world and doctors are concerned as obesity increases the likelihood of the gestational diabetes by three to five fold.

Women who develop gestational diabetes require intensive antenatal care to control blood glucose and to identify other common complications, particularly foetal macrosomia, a newborn who’s significantly larger than average.

In practice today, all obese pregnant women are categorised as being of equally high risk of gestational diabetes, whereas in reality, only around 25% will develop the disorder.

However, in the study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), the team looked at how to correctly identify obese women with heightened risk, early in pregnancy, and as a result, enable timely targeted intervention to those women most likely to benefit.

From the many factors tested, those that predicted gestational diabetes included older age, disease in a previous pregnancy, higher blood pressure and anthropometric measures such as skin thicknesses, waist and mid-arm circumferences.

A number of blood tests, such as Haemoglobin A1c, also added strength to the predictive tool. Overall out of the 1303 women in the study, 337 were affected by gestational diabetes.

‘There is currently no accepted strategy to identify obese women at high risk of gestational diabetes, early in pregnancy. Today, all those classified as obese are considered high risk. With escalating rates of obesity worldwide, a more accurate way of defining risk is necessary in this group,’ said Lead author, Dr Sara White from King’s College London.

‘In this, the largest and most comprehensive study to date, we have used an extensive range of different measures to develop prediction tools. One of our models focused on a few clinical factors and biomarkers already readily available in clinical practice and which incurred minimal cost,’ she explained.

‘In addition, we have identified a model that does not require blood sampling, which could be developed for low and middle income countries where the prevalence of gestational diabetes and obesity is rapidly increasing,’ she pointed out.

‘Clinical use of these tests would enable prompt intervention and correctly target those at highest risk and therefore most likely to benefit,’ she added.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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