Major NZ study looks at gestational diabetes

05 October 2016
measuring fundal height in a pregnant woman

A New Zealand study is recruiting more than 9,000 pregnant women to find out whether changes should be made in the way gestational diabetes is diagnosed.

At the moment, pregnant women in New Zealand are tested for gestational diabetes by completing an oral glucose tolerance test at 20-weeks gestation.

The GEMS study is looking to see whether a lower blood glucose threshold should be used for the detection of gestational diabetes using this test.  

GEMS stand for Gestational Diabetes Mellitus Study of Diagnostic Thresholds and is the first randomised trial to compare different ways of diagnosing gestational diabetes.

The study is important because gestational diabetes can cause health problems for both the mother and her baby during pregnancy and birth.  

The immediate health problems can include:

  • large-for-gestational age birth weight
  • birth injuries
  • breathing problems
  • jaundice
  • low blood sugar.

Long-term health risks for mothers include an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, while their babies face an increased risk of growing up overweight or obese and of developing diabetes in adulthood.

Women who enrol in the GEMS study will be randomly assigned to one of two groups.  One will be tested for gestational diabetes in the usual way, the other will be tested using a lower blood glucose threshold.  This second group will also be asked about diet, activity patterns, health and wellbeing.

Women in the Auckland and Counties Manukau areas are eligible to be involved in the study, as long as they are less than 34-weeks pregnant and have no history of gestational diabetes.

If you know someone who may be interested in participating, find out more here.