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Diabetes affects about 1 in 20 pregnancies in Australia and is associated with poorer pregnancy and birth outcomes, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

‘Mothers with diabetes are more likely to have a pre-term birth, pre-term induced labour, caesarean section, hypertension and longer stay in hospital than those without diabetes,’ said Mardi Templeton, of the Institute’s Cardiovascular, Diabetes and Kidney Unit.

The report, Diabetes in pregnancy: its impact on Australian women and their babies, shows that there is an increased risk of these adverse effects among women with pre-existing Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes than for women with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), a form of diabetes that can arise in pregnancy.

But all forms of diabetes, including GDM, are associated with a higher risk.

‘The rate of stillbirths was higher among the babies of mothers with pre-existing diabetes, and they were also more likely to have low Apgar scores, high birthweights and need resuscitation or admission to special care facilities,’ Ms Templeton said.

Hypertension, pre-term birth and caesarean section were more common in women with pre-existing Type 1 diabetes than in those with pre-existing Type 2 diabetes. Stillbirth was more common among babies born to mothers with Type 2 diabetes than those with Type 1 diabetes

Among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers, pre-existing diabetes was 3 to 4 times as common as for non-Indigenous mothers. The rate for pre-existing Type 2 diabetes was 10 times that of non-Indigenous mothers, and GDM was twice as common.

‘Adverse effects on pregnancy, labour and delivery were more likely in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their babies,’ Ms Templeton said.

Mothers born in high-diabetes-risk regions, such as Polynesia, Asia and the Middle East, were more likely to have diabetes in pregnancy than mothers born in Australia.

‘Interestingly, lower rates of adverse effects were recorded for mothers from high-diabetes-risk regions compared with those born in Australia,’ Ms Templeton said. ‘Their babies also had similar or lower rates of adverse effects.’

Monday 13 December 2010

Further information: Mardi Templeton, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1128, mob. 0407 915 851
Dr Glynis Ross, Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital, tel. (02) 9722 8360
Associate Professor Jeff Flack, University of New South Wales, tel. (02) 9722 8350
For media copies of the report: Publications Officer 02 6244 1032

Full report: Diabetes in pregnancy: its impact on Australian women and their babies