Real-time tracking of blood sugar levels among pregnant women with Type 1 diabetes prevents complications that could hurt them and their un-born babies as doctors are able to remedy any problem at an early stage.
According to a new study published in The Lancet journal, round-the-clock monitoring of blood sugar levels using an implanted digital device helps to better manage the disease hence improving birth outcomes compared to traditional finger-prick tests.
The innovative implant technology, known as Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) device, refers to a tiny electrode which is inserted under the skin to allow for 24-hour monitoring of people’s blood sugar levels.
The implant is connected to a transmitter which sends the results via a wireless radio frequency to a monitoring and display device.
This allows expectant women with diabetes to notice immediately when levels are abnormal (too high or too low) and remedy the problem in consultation with doctors before any damage is caused to her or the unborn child.
Based on the current practice, pregnant women with Type 1 diabetes usually monitor their blood sugar four to eight times a day by pricking their finger and putting the blood on a test strip that measures the sugar levels.
Consequently, any fluctuations that happen during the time intervals when testing is not being done remain unnoticed and could unknowingly harm the mother or her child.
Dr Denice Feig, lead author of the study from Canadian-based University of Toronto and Sinai Health System noted that there has been limited progress made over the past 30 years to improve birth outcomes for women with Type 1 diabetes.
“So we’re pleased that our study offers a new option to help the women and their children.”
Compared to ‘normal’ women, studies show that approximately 50 per cent of children of Type 1 diabetes mothers face complications as a result of being exposed to maternal high blood sugar levels.
These children have a higher chance of dying during delivery or being born prematurely. They can also develop lifelong birth defects such as Spina Bifida (spinal cord problems) and heart malformations that cause breathing challenges.
For the mothers, high sugar levels can cause pre-eclampsia. This is a pregnancy complication characterised by high blood pressure and signs of damage to other body organs, especially the liver and kidneys.
These women also have increased chances of giving birth to ‘big’ babies that have to be delivered surgically (via C-section) to prevent vaginal tears and excessive bleeding which are likely to happen if the mothers undergo normal vaginal births.
Low blood sugar levels on the other hand cause brain development problems for the unborn child as well as hypertension.
“So keeping blood sugar levels within the normal range during pregnancy for women with type 1 diabetes is crucial to reduce risks for the mother and child,” said Dr Feig.
The study took place in 31 hospitals in Canada, England, Scotland, Spain, Ireland, Italy and the USA. It involved 214 pregnant women with type 1 diabetes (aged between 18 and 40 years) who managed their condition with daily insulin therapy.
Compared to those who used the traditional testing slips, findings of the study showed that women who used the digital CGM devices during pregnancy spent less time with high or low blood sugar levels.
They also contacted their doctor more on how to better manage their sugar levels by incorporating data from the device into their diabetes routines.