It's estimated that between five and ten percent of pregnant women will be diagnosed with gestational diabetes, usually at around 26-28 weeks. Geisinger is involved in a study that will look into how often women must test their blood sugars once they've been diagnosed.
We met Adrienne Reitz of Dallas on her lunch break, here at Little Meadows Child Care Center in Luzerne County's Back Mountain. She came to feed and visit with her six-month old daughter, Scarlett. Mom and baby are healthy, despite a diagnoses of gestational diabetes during her pregnancy last year.
Adrienne says she isn't diabetic to begin with, and has no history of the disease in her family. She has a three-year-old son as well, and notes that pregnancy was normal. That's why she wasn't sure what to expect when she was referred to Geisinger's Maternal Fetal Medicine Department.
"It was daunting, because I knew it would mean a lot more monitoring. I was concerned about what would happen- there are a lot of side effects with uncontrolled gestational diabetes," said Adrienne.
Dr. Michael Paglia is the director of the division, which recently moved from a small space within Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center to a bigger office in Forty Fort.
He told us about his involvement in a multi-center study having to do with gestational diabetes. Right now, a woman with the diagnosis must test her blood sugars 4 times a day, every day.
"Nobody has ever shown that it is actually necessary to test every single day," Dr. Paglia said. "So we're doing a study with two other major academic medical centers, looking to see and compare whether it's safe for women to test blood sugars 4 times every day, or 4 times every other day."
Dr. Paglia says there have been preliminary studies on the subject but this would be the first major one. It's important, he says, because evidence-based medicine is best.
"If a woman could reduce the number of times she has to stick herself for blood sugar monitoring by half, how wonderful would that be," said Dr. Paglia.
Adrienne remembers all that testing, but says she was able to control her gestational diabetes by changing her diet, injecting herself with insulin, and staying in close contact with Geisinger staff.
Just six weeks after baby Scarlett was born, testing showed that mom and baby were normal and healthy.
"They really educate you and guide you to have the healthiest pregnancy you possibly can," said Adrienne.
Gestational diabetes usually goes away after the baby is born, but mom will have a greater risk of developing diabetes later in life.
As far as the study goes, some 400 patients are needed in three locations: here, Texas, and Rhode Island. So far, 20 have been chosen. We'll keep you posted on the findings.