New UK research has found that women develop diabetes in pregnancy but are not diagnosed are more likely to experience stillbirth than women without the condition.
Led by the University of Leeds and the University of Manchester and funded by the charities Action Medical Research, Cure Kids, Sands and Tommy's, the new study looked at the symptoms and care of 291 women who experienced a stillbirth and 733 similar women who did not experience a stillbirth across 41 maternity units in England.
The findings, published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, showed that all of the women with high blood sugar, which was measured after a period of fasting, had a four-fold greater risk of stillbirth than women without high blood sugar.
In addition, women who were at risk of gestational diabetes, but not screened for the condition, also had a 44 percent greater risk of late stillbirth than the women who were not at risk.
However, when the women with high blood sugar or who were at risk of the condition underwent the appropriate screening and diagnosis, the increased risk of stillbirth disappeared.
The researchers say that the increased risk of stillbirth was likely caused by the missed diagnosis and also a lack of subsequent care. However, the findings only show an association and cannot prove cause and effect.
Lead author Dr Tomasina Stacey commented on the findings saying, "There's good news and there's bad news. The good news is that women with gestational diabetes have no increase in stillbirth risk if national guidelines are followed for screening, diagnosis and management. The bad news is that the guidelines are not always followed and some women therefore experience avoidably higher risk."
Co-author Professor Alexander Heazell also added that, "It's not clear why some women missed out on being screened or diagnosed for gestational diabetes, but this needs to be improved."
"Gestational diabetes can cause serious complications in pregnancy. It's important that we detect every woman with symptoms so she can receive the appropriate care and support."
The National Institute for Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that all women at a higher risk of gestational diabetes should receive blood screening for the condition, including women with a higher body mass index (a BMI of over 30), women with previous gestational diabetes, women with a family history of diabetes, and women from South Asian or Black Caribbean ethnic groups.