Suggested revisions in the benchmarks used to assess dangerously high blood sugar levels in pregnant women could lead to a doubling or tripling of the number of women diagnosed with gestational diabetes*. That’s the conclusion of an international study led by the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
The study tracked 23,000 pregnant women in nine countries to determine if the measurements currently used to diagnose gestational diabetes fail to take into account additional risks to mothers and babies. The researchers determined that blood glucose levels previously considered safe or normal in pregnant women actually pose a threat to both the women and their babies.
For example, a fasting blood sugar level of 92 mg/dL is currently considered tolerable in a pregnant woman, even though it indicates a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future. However, that level of blood sugar is suspected of increasing other risks, too. Among them are premature deliveries, caesarean deliveries, overweight babies with high insulin levels, and preeclampsia, a dangerously high blood pressure condition.
According to the study’s author, Dr. Boyd Metzger, a professor of metabolism and nutrition, currently acceptable levels of blood sugar not only almost double the frequency of preeclampsia and overweight newborns, but also increase the frequency of early deliveries by 40 percent.
Currently, an estimated five to eight percent of all pregnant women are diagnosed with gestational diabetes. The Northwestern researchers estimate that under the more stringent new measurements, more than 16 percent would be diagnosed with the condition-a doubling or tripling of the current percentage.
The study appears in the March issue of Diabetes Care.
*Gestational diabetes is a condition in which women who do not have pre-existing diabetes develop the disease during pregnancy. The diabetes disappears after delivery in most cases, but many women who experience the condition later develop type 2 diabetes.
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