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Diabetes link to stillbirth

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Mothers with type 1 diabetes are at risk Mothers with type 1 diabetes were more than three times likely to deliver a stillborn child

Diabetic women are more than four times more likely to have a stillborn baby than those without the condition, a new study has found.

Researchers from the University of Glasgow looked at the records of nearly 4,000 Scottish diabetic mothers. They found high blood sugar levels in pregnant diabetics was a ‘risk factor’ in stillbirths. Mothers with type 1 diabetes were more than three times likely to deliver a stillborn child, while those with type 2 were at least four times likely. Stillbirth rates were 16.1 per 1,000 births in the women with type 1 diabetes and 22.9 per 1,000 births in type 2 diabetes, compared with 4.9 per 1,000 births in the general population.

‘This is an interesting new piece of research that builds on the existing evidence that diabetes during pregnancy can increase the risk of stillbirth, and women with existing diabetic conditions do require additional monitoring during their pregnancies in line with national guidance,’ said Birte Harlev-Lam, Executive Director of Professional Leadership at the Royal College of Midwives.

‘Also, gestational diabetes is a condition that can affect some women during pregnancy and we know that many women who are overweight or obese at the time of conception or during their pregnancy may be at risk of developing gestational diabetes.'

The study also found that Body Mass Index of diabetic women is also a critical factor. Researchers further found that a third of stillbirths in diabetic women happened at full term.

There is strong evidence of the risks of obesity and excess weight gain in pregnancy and yet there are no UK guidelines on what constitutes a safe weight gain. Women should try to be an ideal weight before they become pregnant and, if not, they should follow midwifery advice to exercise and manage their weight in pregnancy whilst maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet,’ added Ms Harlev-Lam.

‘Midwives play a key role in advising and supporting women to eat more healthily so it is vital they have enough time to spend with women to promote and discuss the benefits of eating a healthy balanced diet. We also need to ensure that women who require support services are signposted to appropriate weight management services and social support.’

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