Despite recommendations to screen women with diabetes risk factors for hyperglycaemia in the first trimester, criteria for normal glucose values in early pregnancy have not been firmly established. We aimed to compare glucose levels in early pregnancy with those later in gestation and outside of pregnancy in women with diabetes risk factors.
In pregnant women (N = 123) followed longitudinally through the postpartum period, and a separate cohort of non-pregnant women (N = 65), we performed 75 g oral glucose tolerance tests. All participants had one or more risk factors for diabetes. Using linear regression, we tested for differences in glucose levels between non-pregnant and pregnant women at early (7-15 weeks) and mid-late (24-32 weeks) gestation as well as postpartum, with adjustment for maternal age, parity, marital status and BMI. In a longitudinal analysis using mixed-effects models, we tested for differences in glucose levels across early and mid-late pregnancy compared with postpartum. Differences are expressed as β (95% CI).
Fasting glucose was lower in pregnant compared with non-pregnant women by 0.34 (0.18, 0.51) mmol/l (p < 0.0001) in early pregnancy and by 0.45 (0.29, 0.61) mmol/l (p < 0.0001) in mid-late pregnancy. In longitudinal models, fasting glucose was lower by 0.13 (0.04, 0.21) mmol/l (p = 0.003) in early pregnancy and by 0.16 (0.08, 0.25) mmol/l (p = 0.0003) in mid-late pregnancy compared with the same women postpartum. Early pregnancy post-load glucose levels did not differ from those in non-pregnant women or the same women postpartum. In mid-late pregnancy, compared with non-pregnant women, elevations in 1 h post-load glucose level (0.60 [-0.12, 1.33] mmol/l, p = 0.10) and 2 h post-load glucose (0.49 [-0.21, 1.19] mmol/l, p = 0.17) were not statistically significant. However, in longitudinal analyses, 1 h and 2 h post-load glucose levels were higher in mid-late pregnancy (by 0.78 [0.35, 1.21] mmol/l, p = 0.0004, and 0.67 [0.30, 1.04] mmol/l, p = 0.0005, respectively) when compared with postpartum.
In women with diabetes risk factors, fasting glucose declines in the first trimester. Post-load glucose increases later in pregnancy. These findings may inform criteria for diagnosing hyperglycaemia early in pregnancy.