Gestational diabetes diagnosis 'needs improving'

Significant improvements are needed to the diagnosis of gestational diabetes in the UK, a new report has warned.

Research carried out at the University of Cambridge has led to the discovery that the condition is often detected too late, by which time both the expectant mother's and baby's health are in a position of serious risk.

The onset of gestational diabetes can be detected early in pregnancy, with women usually offered a blood glucose test at between eight and 12 weeks gestation. Those deemed to be at risk of the condition are then offered further, more extensive screening later on in their pregnancy, with this typically taking place at 28 weeks.

Doctors are recommending that this should be brought forward to 24 weeks or even sooner so that women can begin looking after their health as early as possible to secure the best outcome for their baby.

The researchers found that by the time gestational diabetes is diagnosed, the foetus has often grown above average size, making pregnancy complications more likely.

For the study, some 4,069 women were monitored, 171 of whom were found to have gestational diabetes after their 28th week of pregnancy. At 20 weeks' gestation, there was deemed to be no significant link between foetus size and gestational diabetes risk.

However, it was found that between weeks 20 and 28, the unborn babies of women with the condition grew at a rapid pace, highlighting the importance of diagnosing the condition as early as possible so the expectant mother can alter her diet accordingly.

Lead author of the study Dr Ulla Sovio summarised: "Given the risk of complications for both mother and child from gestational diabetes, our findings suggest that screening women earlier on in pregnancy may help improve the short and long-term outcomes for these women."

Gestational diabetes usually disappears as soon as a woman gives birth, but there is research to suggest that those affected by the condition are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes in later life.