A team of academics have identified a new direction for diagnosing gestational diabetes after the weight and biochemical markers in blood from women with the condition were found to put them at risk of poor pregnancy outcomes.

During the review, researchers looked at the diagnostic values of these markers before or at the time of screening for gestational diabetes – high blood sugar that develops during pregnancy and usually disappears after giving birth.

Lead author Ellen Francis said: “Although we found that obesity is a risk factor for offspring born larger for their gestational age, evidence suggests that the metabolic alterations that accompany obesity increase the risk of adverse outcomes.”

Pregnancy experts say that gestational diabetes puts both the mother and child at risk of health complications.

“The research demonstrates the need for a more nuanced approach to diagnose gestational diabetes, which may help improve outcomes,” said Francis.

This report is the first systematic review of the literature to assess the impact of subtypes on gestational diabetes and to determine if nonglycemic markers could refine risk stratification.

Francis continued: “Some of the literature suggested insulin profiles and triglyceride levels may serve as promising non-glucose indicators of risk.

“To really assess the clinical implications of precision diagnostics in gestational diabetes, we first need to understand if insulin resistance or higher triglycerides are causally linked to adverse outcomes, and whether we can safely target them in pregnancy.”

According to the report, a vital gap in the existing literature meant that the majority of the studies had not look at comparing clinical, biochemical or sociocultural differences among women who develop gestational diabetes.

Francis said: “In our full text screening of 775 studies, we found that only recently has there been a focus on clinical, biochemical, or sociocultural markers that could improve who is at greater risk of poor outcomes, and on comparing clinical outcomes between different subtypes.

“The data from these studies indicate that in the future, we may be able to refine how we diagnose gestational diabetes by using anthropometric or biochemical information in combination with current diagnostic approaches.”

Read the study in the journal Communications Medicine.

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