A new list of ten questions chosen by clinicians and people with diabetes will help guide future research in diabetes and pregnancy to deliver maximum value and impact.
The questions come from the Diabetes and Pregnancy Priority Setting Partnership (PSP), which consulted hundreds of women and their families, along with healthcare professionals, to identify ten key priorities for diabetes and pregnancy research.
Diabetes affects around 38,000 women giving birth in the UK, and rates are rising. Although most women have healthy babies, diabetes can cause complications during pregnancy and birth, and may have long-term effects for mother and child. To date, most research has focused on gestational diabetes, which develops during pregnancy.
The priority areas identified by the project reflect the entire birth journey, from planning pregnancy to postnatal support, and apply to any type of diabetes.
Between June 2019 and July 2020, more than 450 women, their families and support networks, and healthcare professionals submitted their questions about the time before, during or after pregnancy with diabetes of any type.
The top ten priority research questions were agreed at a workshop in October 2020. They are:
- How can diabetes technology be used to improve pregnancy, birth, and mother and child health outcomes?
- What is the best test to diagnose diabetes in pregnant women?
- For women with diabetes, what is the best way to manage blood sugar levels using diet and lifestyle during pregnancy?
- What are the emotional and mental well-being needs of women with diabetes before, during, and after pregnancy, and how can they best be supported?
- When is it safe for pregnant women with diabetes to give birth at full term compared with early delivery via induction or elective caesarean?
- What are the specific postnatal care and support needs of women with diabetes and their infants?
- What is the best way to test for and treat diabetes in late pregnancy i.e. after 34 weeks?
- What is the best way to reduce the risk or prevent women with gestational diabetes developing other types of diabetes any time after pregnancy?
- What are the labour and birth experiences of women with diabetes, and how can their choices and shared decision making be enhanced?
- How can care and services be improved for women with diabetes who are planning pregnancy?
Feeding into the future of diabetes research
The priorities will be shared with funding bodies, research institutes and scientific societies to use them as a starting point for deciding future research projects and programmes.
JDRF’s Research Partnerships Manager Caroline Schmutz said: “Diabetes and pregnancy often falls between the cracks in terms of funding being too specific for both the wider diabetes and the maternal and child health agenda. In addition, the exclusion of pregnant women in clinical research generally can inhibit research in the type 1 diabetes field. That’s why JDRF supported the Diabetes and Pregnancy Priority Setting Partnership, helping to identify the top 10 research priorities in this area.”
Dr Goher Ayman, project co-lead at the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit (NPEU), said: “Healthcare research is often led by industry and researchers. But there can be a mismatch between the research they do and the issues that are most important for people living with the condition, or those that support them.
“When these priorities are acted on, we are making sure that research will deliver the most impact and value for women and their families, closing the loop of the process.”
Find out more about the Diabetes and Pregnancy PSP, which is led by the NPEU, and includes the James Lind Alliance, Diabetes UK, JDRF and the Diabetes Research and Wellness Foundation.