Diabetes raises risk of stillbirth

Major study by University of Glasgow researchers finds no improvement in recent years

Tuesday 30th July 2019

A major study of Scottish mothers has found women with diabetes are over four times more likely to have a stillborn baby.

Mothers-to-be with the condition are particularly at risk if they have obesity or poorly controlled blood sugar levels.

Researchers from the University of Glasgow examined the records of nearly 4,000 diabetic mothers from 1998 to 2016.

The study, published in the journal Diabetologica, noted mothers with pre-pregnancy diabetes are at a four to five times increased risk of stillbirth.

There has been no improvement seen over recent years, in contrast with decreasing stillbirth rates seen in the general obstetric population.

It found the stillbirth rates were 16.1 per 1,000 births for women with type 1 diabetes. The risk was raised with higher blood sugar levels before conception or during later pregnancy.

For women with type 2 diabetes, the stillbirth rate was 22.9 per 1,000 births, with the risk link to raised blood sugar levels before conception and a higher Body Mass Index.

Most of the stillbirths happened when the foetus was premature.

However around one-third occurred when the pregnancy was full-term, with the highest rates in the 38th week for mothers with type 1 diabetes and in the 39th week for type 2 diabetes.

This study, led by Dr Sharon Mackin, of the University of Glasgow, said earlier delivery would be a ‘sensible approach’.

However the researchers added that because of potential issues such as inadequate lung development, more research was required before recommendations for optimal timing of delivery are made.

The study concluded achieving near normal blood sugar levels remained key to reducing the risk.

It said: “Methods of supporting women to improve blood glucose levels in pregnancy along with programmes to optimise weight before pregnancy may help reduce stillbirth levels but are often challenging to implement successfully.”