Traditionally, healthcare professionals have been advised to use insulin to treat pregnant women who have type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes (GDM). Now, there is debate about whether metformin or other medications are equally effective alternatives to insulin.
Dr. Denice Feig presented data showing that in pregnant women with GDM, metformin use resulted in less maternal weight gain, less preeclampsia (pregnancy-related high blood pressure), lower birth weight, and less neonatal hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Additionally, there is no evidence that metformin causes any abnormalities in babies, and the drug may reduce insulin resistance in the fetus. During the first trimester of pregnancy, metformin may be a reasonable alternative, if not a first-line treatment equivalent, to insulin. It is also cheaper, easier to use, and poses less of a risk for hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) than insulin.
While the data are promising, both Dr. Feig and Dr. Linda Barbour pointed out that long-term effects on the baby due to exposure to metformin during pregnancy may include a greater risk of being overweight, developing obesity, and having a higher BMI. Unfortunately, the data did not include pregnant women with type 2 diabetes; an ongoing study, MiTy, is currently studying these effects. Both Dr. Feig and Dr. Barbour emphasized that we need more data to decide the best treatment for pregnant women with diabetes – that may well be, and we also hope that better screening is in the works, so that those at risk of gestational diabetes can learn about it earlier and work with their healthcare teams to live with it successfully, which is eminently possible.
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