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Current gestational diabetes guidelines could miss 4,000 women

Monday 15th June 2015
A new report has suggested that updated guidelines could miss thousands of women at risk of gestational diabetes. Image Credit: Thinkstock
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New guidelines for diagnosing gestational diabetes in pregnant women could leave thousands of women at risk, a report has claimed.

A team from Cambridge University have found that the new guidelines, introduced by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), could overlook around 4,000 women who are also at risk of the disease.

In February 2015, NICE adjusted its guidelines for gestational diabetes. According to the new criteria, women must register 5.6mmol/L or higher in an oral glucose tolerance test to be diagnosed with the disease.

According to the team at Cambridge University, the threshold is too high. They looked at 25,000 women who had all given birth at the Rosie Hospital in Cambridge.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has its own guidelines for gestational diabetes but these are much lower than NICE's.

According to WHO, patients must take three blood tests and if they record a reading of 5.1mmol/L or higher they will be diagnosed with the disease.

In the study, the researchers focused on women with fasting blood glucose levels between 5.1 and 5.6mmol/L, who represent the difference between NICE and WHO guidelines. They found that they had twice the risk of a number of pregnancy complications, such as needing an emergency Caesarean section, and a high risk of excessive amniotic fluid.

According to the study's author Dr Claire Meek, there is a significant difference between the two guidelines.

She said: "The international criteria are based on minimising the risk of harm to the mother and baby, whereas the NICE criteria have been based upon reducing costs to the NHS.

"While cost-effectiveness is important in any healthcare system, we must not forget the psychological and emotional distress that complications can cause."

According to the study, published in Diabetologia, the threshold could mean 4,000 women in the UK are missing out on treatment for gestational diabetes.

Written by Martin Lambert

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