NEW RESEARCH FROM NUI Galway, funded by the Health Research Board, has shown that maternity care costs for pregnant women with gestational diabetes are 34 per cent higher than average.
Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM) is a form of diabetes which is first diagnosed during pregnancy. It develops in about 12 per cent of pregnancies and is more common in women who are overweight or obese. Previous research has shown that it carries with it increased risks for both mother and baby, but this is the first time the economic implications have been studied in Ireland.
From the sample of 4,372 women, with a diagnosis of GDM were almost twice as likely to undergo an emergency caesarean section, and their babies were three times more likely to be admitted to a neonatal unit. The resulting maternity care costs, specifically calculated by sampling patients from the public healthcare system, were increased by 34 per cent.
Dr Paddy Gillespie from the School of Business and Economics at NUI Galway said that aside from the serious health implications, GDM is also placing a substantial economic burden on maternity costs.
“This burden is likely to rise in the future if current practices remain unchanged given projected increases in GDM prevalence rates,” he said. “However, what our study really highlights are the potential cost savings which may arise from interventions that aim to prevent the onset of GDM in pregnancy.”
Professor Fidelma Dunne, Consultant Endocrinologist and Head of School of Medicine at NUI Galway, headed-up the Atlantic DIP research and co-authored this week’s study. Dunne said that the cost of interventions, such as universal screening, could potentially be offset by the reduced number of women requiring more costly medical care.
“GDM is a significant public health concern for women and their babies in Ireland,” she said. “Ireland needs to introduce universal screening of women in pregnancy for GDM, rather than the current approach of selective screening.”
“We also need to look at lifestyle interventions and educating women about vitamin supplements, diet and exercise through their ante-natal centres and GPs,” she added.
The research, ‘Modelling the Independent Effects of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus on Maternity Care and Costs’, was published this week in Diabetes Care. Data for the study came from the five-year project Atlantic Diabetes in Pregnancy (Atlantic DIP), which measured the incidence and outcomes of diabetes in pregnancy in the west and north-west of Ireland.