In a final recommendation statement, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force advised that all women be screened for gestational diabetes after 24 weeks of pregnancy.
Diabetes that begins during pregnancy can cause serious health problems for expectant mothers and their babies, Virginia A. Moyer, MD, MPH, task force chairwoman, said in a news release. The good news is that screening all women after 24 weeks of pregnancy is simple and can result in better health outcomes for both the mother and the baby.
About 240,000, or 7%, of the approximately 4 million women who give birth each year develop gestational diabetes, according to the task force. The condition is on the rise as obesity, older age during pregnancy and other risk factors become more common among pregnant women.
The task force recommends screening for gestational diabetes after 24 weeks of pregnancy in all women who do not have symptoms of the condition. Under terms of the Affordable Care Act, the recommendation means insurers must cover the full cost of screening, with no out-of-pocket costs to patients.
The task force found insufficient evidence to assess the balance of benefits and harms of screening earlier than 24 weeks of pregnancy.
For expectant mothers at or after 24 weeks of pregnancy, according to the task force, screening and treatment lower the risk of preeclampsia and other complications of pregnancy, labor and delivery. Treating diabetes during pregnancy also can prevent macrosomia, which can lead to birth injuries.
All women should talk to their doctors or nurses about actions they can take before becoming pregnant to improve their health, Moyer said, including maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking and managing any chronic conditions.
Before finalizing this recommendation, the task force posted a draft version for public comment in the spring of 2013.
Recommendation and supporting information: www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/uspsgdm.htm