Stillbirth More Likely in Women With Diabetes – researchers warn

Researchers have warned that women with type 2 diabetes are 5 times more likely to suffer the heartbreak of a stillbirth. The researchers said high blood sugar levels and obesity, which are both contributing features of the diabetes, are ‘key modifiable risk factors’ to reduce stillbirths.

The American Pregnancy Association highlights that there are two main types of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease often diagnosed in childhood and in young adults which accounts for about 5 to 10% of diagnosed. It requires daily use of insulin and symptoms may include increased thirst and urination, constant hunger, weight loss, blurred vision, and extreme fatigue.

Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, is the most common form of diabetes, accounting for about 90-95% of diabetes cases. Symptoms of Type 2 include bladder or kidney infections that heal slowly, increased thirst and urination, constant hunger and fatigue. This form of diabetes is often associated with older age, obesity, family history, previous history of gestational diabetes, physical inactivity, and it can be more prevalent in certain ethnic groups.

Women Should Seek Early Screening When Pregnant

Dr Sharon Mackin, who carried out the study published in the Diabetologia journal, said: ‘It is vital that we, as healthcare professionals, find better ways to support women during their fertile ages to optimise weight and blood sugar, so that when entering pregnancy, whether that be planned or unplanned, they are better prepared and their risk of adverse outcomes like stillbirth is reduced.

It is important that women with diabetes are mindful of this, and are able to access appropriate pre-conceptual counselling, even if not imminently planning a pregnancy. Women with diabetes should also make contact with their diabetic clinic as soon as they get a positive pregnancy test so that we can see and support them early on. ‘Obesity in pregnancy is a major and growing problem,’ she added.

Dr Emily Burns, head of research communications at Diabetes UK, also remarked: ‘Most women with diabetes have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies, but this research reinforces the importance of supporting women to manage their blood glucose levels if they are planning a pregnancy, in order to reduce their risk of complications like stillbirth as much as possible.

What Causes Diabetes in Pregnacy?

The exacted cause is not clearly understood but explanations have linked it’s development to the inhibition of the action of insulin by the presence of other hormones produced by the placenta including progesterone, cortisol, human placental lactogen, prolactin and estradiol.

The risk factors associated with gestational diabetes include

  • Age > 25 years.
  • Pre-existing type 1 or type 2 diabetes mellitus.
  • Family history of diabetes mellitus.
  • Women who are overweight.
  • Women of African descent or black race.
  • History of polycystic ovarian syndrome.

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