Earlier delivery may be considered for pregnant women with diabetes who are at greater risk of stillbirth.
While most mothers with diabetes have healthy pregnancies, the risk of stillbirth is over three times higher in mothers with diabetes than mothers without the condition.
Within the study, the risk of stillbirth affected 0.5% of births for women without diabetes, 1.6% of births for women with type 1 diabetes, and 2.3% of births for women with type 2 diabetes.
A team from the University of Glasgow carried out a study that involving looking at the health data of nearly 4,000 mothers with diabetes in Scotland.
They found a number of variables which can impact the risk including high blood glucose levels and the expectant mothers’ body mass index (BMI).
Dr Sharon Macki, who led the research, 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 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 diabetes clinic as soon as they get a positive pregnancy test so that we can see and support them early on.”
The findings also suggested that a third of stillbirths among women with diabetes occur at full-term. It is because of this that the researchers are considering whether early delivery may be an effective way to reduce the risk.
Dr Mackin said they must consider “whether earlier delivery of all diabetic pregnancies could prevent these term stillbirths.
She added: “We don’t know the answer to this. The optimal timing of delivery in such pregnancies is not clear.”
The data findings showed the risk of stillborn was three times higher among women with type 1 diabetes and around four times higher in women with type 2 diabetes.
Head of Research Communications at Diabetes UK, Dr Emily Burns said: “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 as much as possible.
“It also suggests that losing extra weight, for women with type 2 diabetes who are overweight, could help to reduce this risk as well. We need research to find better ways of predicting who is most at risk of complications during pregnancy, to ensure support can be provided to those who need it most.”
The study has been published in the Diabetologia journal.