HealthDay News — Early diagnosis and treatment of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) in high-risk women improves gestational weight gain (GWG), according to a study published online April 24 in the Journal of Women’s Health.

Teresa A. Hillier, M.D., from Kaiser Permanente Northwest in Portland, Oregon, and colleagues assessed the timing of GDM diagnosis among 5,391 pregnant women who delivered singleton births from 2010 to 2013. Usual universal screening occurred at 24 to 28 weeks of gestation, while early screening was recommended for obese and other high-risk women at the first prenatal visit.

The researchers found that 10.7 percent of women were diagnosed with GDM. Women with early GDM averaged 2.4 kg less GWG than women diagnosed with usual GDM. Among obese women, only those diagnosed with early GDM averaged overall GWG within Institute of Medicine weight guidelines (mean 8.1 kg). Overall, 43 percent of pregnant women gained more total weight than recommended, but the percentage was higher among obese women (60 percent). Excess weight gain was less likely among obese women diagnosed with GDM if they were diagnosed earlier in pregnancy (35 percent early GDM versus 59 percent usual GDM-exceeded guidelines).

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“For women at high risk for gestational diabetes, earlier screening during the first trimester of pregnancy can provide a safety net to ensure a safer pregnancy,” Susan G. Kornstein, M.D., editor-in-chief of Journal of Women’s Health, said in a statement. “The data presented by Hillier et al are compelling and should encourage earlier screening for glucose intolerance and the initiation of lifestyle changes and appropriate treatment to prevent excessive weight gain.”

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