By testing pregnant women's triglyceride levels and keeping track of large waistlines, doctors may be able to tell much sooner than before whether the women will develop gestational diabetes, a new study suggests.
Because gestational diabetes is often diagnosed late — at around six months into pregnancy — and tests are costly and time-consuming, the findings could mean earlier intervention for moms-to-be who want to keep their health in check, researchers from University of Montreal and Chicoutimi Hospital in Canada said in a statement.
Among the 144 pregnant women in the study, women with waistlines larger than 33.5 inches (85 centimeters) and high levels of triglycerides — fats found in the blood that are used for energy — during their first trimester were more likely to score higher on a blood glucose test taken after the second trimester, the researchers said. Almost all of the women began the study with normal glucose levels.
A high level of glucose, or sugar, in the blood is an indicator of gestational diabetes, which occurs when pregnant women's bodies don't make enough insulin to signal the body's cells to take up glucose from bloodstream.
Gestational diabetes can lead to health problems for the baby, including jaundice, low blood sugar levels, low blood mineral levels, trouble breathing and a larger-than-normal body that could require delivery by Caesarean section, according to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
However, the condition can be managed by eating healthily, exercising and taking medication as needed, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Because of the modest sample size, researchers said they will replicate the study with a larger, more diverse group of women.
The study was published today (Sept. 20) in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.