Could a Simple Blood Test Predict Your Gestational Diabetes Risk?

According to new research, predicting a mom-to-be's risk of developing diabetes might be as simple as administering a blood test. (And we're glad to hear it!)

Blood Test for Gestational Diabetes IvanRiver/Shutterstock
Gestational diabetes is on the rise, and as we've previously reported, this might be thanks in part to a lack of screening that exists for pregnant women. But could this news help us better understand and control the health issue? 

According to new research from experts at Brigham and Women's Hospital, there's a biomarker for gestational diabetes that can be identified through a simple blood test. The study, which was published in Diabetes Care, measured blood levels of the biomarker plasma glycated GCD59 between 24 and 28 weeks gestation, and could provide a better picture of a mom-to-be's risk of developing gestational diabetes.

It's a big change from the current method of gestational diabetes screening, which is cumbersome and complicated. Pregnant women are given glucose challenge tests (if you've had one of these, you know chugging down that sugary drink is less than pleasant!) and if they fail this test, they're required to go in for an oral test that requires fasting, more chugging of that super sugary drink, and several blood tests. It's easy to see why a single blood test that could identify risk might be such a solid option.

There's a reason it's so important to screen for this: Gestational diabetes can have some really serious repercussions, like increasing your risk of delivering a very large baby or developing hypertension or preeclampsia. It can also lead to pre-term birth, fetal injury or need for a C-section. And this new test could certainly change the course of screening and treatment of gestational diabetes.

This study indicates that there may be a need to change the treatment for those who fall into a gray area—not totally in the clear as far as gestational diabetes, but not within the range where gestational diabetes is diagnosed. As the researchers pointed out, women who don't classify as having gestational diabetes may still be at risk for some of these complications. This sort of test may be able to better identify women who need special care throughout their pregnancies.

"These results suggest that a single measurement of plasma GCD59 during weeks 24-28 may also help stratify the risk for delivering larger infants among women with gestational glucose intolerance." says Jose Halperin, MD, in a release for this news. "Our studies opened an avenue for larger multicenter studies to further assess the clinical utility of plasma GCD59 for screening and diagnosis of gestational diabetes among the general population of the United States. If our results are confirmed, we're hopeful that the GCD59 test could be available in clinical practices within the next few years."

The good news? If this research pans out, women may be able to easily and effectively identify their risks of developing a serious issue—and with lifestyle modifications (like exercising more often, getting more sleep and focus on upgrading your diet), avoid the complications that come with gestational diabetes.