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Study: Pregnant Women Should Test Early For Gestational Diabetes

Posted August 23, 2002

— There is new research that could change the way doctors test for a common pregnancy complication.

Brandy Morris is expecting her first child in November. Just recently, she was tested for gestational diabetes. Fortunately, it came back negative.

"It's like a burden has been taken off your back," she said.

Health experts say women are usually tested for the condition in their third trimester between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy, but a new study out of Duke suggests that testing women at 16 weeks is just as effective and possibly more beneficial.

Dr. Gerard Nahum, who led the research in the study, said earlier testing and treatment could reduce the risk of complications for mothers and their babies, but that theory still has to be proven.

"There aren't any good studies that have looked at that," he said.

Nahum's research has also turned up some surprising information about the need to test mothers in subsequent pregnancies. Women who test negative in their first pregnancy may not need to be tested again.

Those women are unlikely to test positive during their second pregnancy if both pregnancies occur within a four-year span.

"[It's] so much reduced that you may consider not screening for it at all," Naham said.

Nahum believes doctors will start testing women earlier for gestational diabetes, but predicts most will keep testing in every pregnancy.

"I think that's going to die sort of hard. Physicians are the kinds of people who tend not to rely on data from years ago. They want to do tests," he said.

Most cases of gestational diabetes can be controlled with diet and sometimes insulin injections. Obesity is the leading risk factor for the condition.


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