Gestational (pregnancy-related) diabetes affects between 2% and 9% of all pregnant women. In the United States, however, increasing obesity rates are adding to that percentage. The disease may develop in mid-pregnancy and then disappear but it does leave the woman with an increased risk of developing diabetes in the future.

Although most pregnant women in the United States are screened for gestational diabetes, most other countries have not taken such a proactive approach. A new study released Sunday in the New England Journal of Medicine (findings to appear in June 16 issue of the Journal), however, may change all that. The study, known as the Australian Carbohydrate Intolerance Study in Pregnant Women, selected 1,000 pregnant women with gestational diabetes and then randomly assigned them to either aggressive diabetes treatment (insulin therapy, blood glucose monitoring, and dietary advice) or routine prenatal care. The researchers found that both the mothers and the babies in the aggressively treated group fared better.

The research team found that the babies of women with gestational diabetes tended to be larger than average thereby increasing the likelihood of difficulties during birth including injury to the baby. Only 1% of the births in the "treatment" group had serious complications while the "routine" care group had a 4% figure. There was also a lower risk of serious problems like preeclampsia. C-Section rates were equal at 31% and 32%. Women in the treatment group were less likely (10%) to deliver extremely large babies (over 8 pounds) than those in the routine care group (21%).

Newborns in the treatment group were admitted to the neonatal nursery 71% (versus 61%). Labor was induced 39% in the treatment group (versus 29%). At three months post-delivery, the treatment group had lower rates of depression and a better quality of life.

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