Sept. 15 (UPI) -- Researchers have found that the use of continuous glucose monitors during pregnancy in women with type 1 diabetes led to significantly better health outcomes for mothers and babies.
One in two babies born to mothers with type 1 diabetes has complications related to high blood sugars, including premature birth, stillbirth, the need for intensive care after birth, higher than average birth weights, and higher than average rates of pre-eclampsia and cesarean section for mothers.
Birth outcomes have not improved over the last 40 years, despite advances in diabetes care.
In the study, published today in The Lancet, 325 pregnant women with type 1 diabetes ages 18-40 were separated into two groups, one which monitored their blood glucose levels with a traditional blood glucose meter and the other that used continuous glucose monitors, or CGMs.
CGMs track blood sugar levels through a wearable sensor that monitors blood glucose levels in real time throughout the day compared to traditional meters involving multiple finger pricks each day to test levels.
"This is the first study where they've had CGMs worn continuously throughout pregnancy," Marlon Pragnell, senior scientist in research at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, who funded the study, told UPI. "Previous studies offered women wearing them for just a week but not continuous throughout the entire pregnancy. So patients were not able to realize the full benefits."
The study, Continuous Glucose Monitoring in Women with Type 1 Diabetes in Pregnancy Trial, or CONCEPTT, showed that women using the CGMs during pregnancy had better blood glucose levels and spent, on average, an extra 100 minutes per day in their recommended blood sugar target range.
Research showed the number of babies born at a large weight for gestational age was reduced from 69 percent to 53 percent, the number of babies admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit for more than 24 hours decreased from 43 percent to 27 percent, and the number of babies born with low blood sugar levels decreased from 28 percent to 15 percent, all with the use of CGMs.
"What's really really exciting is the real, hard clinical outcomes we're seeing," Pragnell said. "High glucose levels in the mother results in the baby becoming large, births are more difficult and challenging with an increase in c-sections. It is so gratifying to see reduced neonatal hypoglycemia. There's a real risk of babies develop hypoglycemia after birth due to high glucose levels in the womb. This is the first time we've seen complications being prevented and reduced by using a CGM."
For every six mothers treated, one large birthweight baby and one NICU admission was prevented with the use of a CGM device, the study found.
"No one expected to see the reduction in large for gestational age outcome in the study," Olivia Lou, associate director of research at the JDRF, told UPI. "We're just delighted to see these results in maternal and fetal outcomes."
The study was an international collaboration of 31 sites throughout the world.
"CGMs have been rapidly improving, becoming much more reliable," Pragnell said. "If we were able to get this type of data with current technology, it will be interesting to see what happens with better technology in the future."