Washington: Two to three times more pregnant women may soon be diagnosed and treated for gestational diabetes.
These findings are based on new norms for determining risky blood sugar levels for the mother and her unborn baby.
"As result of this study, more than 16 percent of the entire population of pregnant women qualified as having gestational diabetes," said Boyd Metzger, professor of metabolism and nutrition at Feinberg School of Medicine who led the study.
"Before, between five to eight percent of pregnant women were diagnosed with this," added Metzger.
Based on a study of more than 23,000 women in nine countries, Metzger and an international group of 50 experts concluded a fasting blood sugar level of 92 or higher, a one-hour level of 180 or higher on a glucose tolerance test or a two-hour level of 153 or higher on a glucose tolerance test constitute serious risks to the mother and baby.
Blood sugar levels that were once considered in the normal range are now seen as causing a sharp increase in the occurrence of overweight babies with high insulin levels, early deliveries, cesarean deliveries and potentially life-threatening preeclampsia, in which the mother has high blood pressure that affects her and the baby.
Large babies, the result of fat accumulation, are defined as weighing in the upper 10 percent of babies in a particular ethnic group.
Because large babies increase the risk of injury during vaginal delivery, many of the women in the study were more likely to have a cesarean section, says a Feinberg School release.
The good news, Metzger noted, is recent studies show that women with mild gestational diabetes, who were treated with lifestyle and diet changes as well as blood sugar monitoring, greatly reduced their risk of complications.
The study is slated for publication in the March issue of Diabetes Care, a journal of the American Diabetes Association.