A new international study involving 23,000 women in nine countries suggests that more than twice as many mothers to be as previously thought will develop gestational diabetes. This finding is based on new measurements for determining dangerous blood sugar levels for the mother and her unborn baby. Previous guidelines to diagnose gestational diabetes were based on blood sugar levels that identified women at high risk for developing diabetes in the future. The guidelines weren’t related to risks to the baby or other risks to the mother. According to the new study coordinated by investigators at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, a fasting blood sugar level of 92 or higher, a one-hour level of 180 or higher on a glucose tolerance test or a two-hour level of 153 or higher on a glucose tolerance test constitute serious risks to the mother and baby. Previously, these levels had been considered in the safe, normal range, and two elevated levels were required for a diagnosis of gestational diabetes.
Complications of gestational diabetes include overweight babies with high insulin levels, early deliveries, cesarean section deliveries and potentially life-threatening preeclampsia, a condition in which the mother has high blood pressure that affects her and the baby. Women with mild gestational diabetes, however, who are treated with lifestyle and diet changes as well as blood sugar monitoring, greatly reduce their risk of complications.
The study, which demonstrated more than 16 percent of the entire population of pregnant women qualified as having gestational diabetes, will be published in the March issue of Diabetes Care, a journal of the American Diabetes Association.