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Outcomes of pregnancy in insulin dependent diabetic women: results of a five year population cohort study

BMJ 1997; 315 doi: (Published 02 August 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;315:275
  1. I F Casson, consultant diabetologista,
  2. C A Clarke, emeritus professorb,
  3. C V Howard, head of research groupc,
  4. O McKendrick, research associatec,
  5. S Pennycook, research nursec,
  6. P O D Pharoah, professord,
  7. M J Platt, senior lecturerd,
  8. M Stanisstreet (mjplatt{at}, senior lecturerb,
  9. D van Velszen, professorc,
  10. S Walkinshaw, consultant in maternal and fetal medicinee
  1. a Broadgreen Hospital, Liverpool L14 3LD
  2. b School of Biological Sciences, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 38X
  3. c Fetal and Infant Pathology, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 3BX
  4. d Department of Public Health, University of Liverpool, Whelan Building, Liverpool L69 3GB
  5. e Liverpool Women's Hospital, Liverpool L8 7SS
  1. Correspondence to: Dr Platt
  • Accepted 19 May 1997


Objective: To monitor pregnancies in women with pre-existent insulin dependent diabetes for pregnancy loss, congenital malformations, and fetal growth in a geographically defined area of north west England.

Design: Population cohort study.

Setting: 10 maternity units in Cheshire, Lancashire, and Merseyside which had no regional guidelines for the management of pregnancy in diabetic women.

Subjects: 462 pregnancies in 355 women with insulin dependent diabetes from the 10 centres over five years (1990-4 inclusive).

Main outcome measures: Numbers and rates of miscarriages, stillbirths, and neonatal and postneonatal deaths; prevalence of congenital malformations; birth weight in relation to gestational age.

Results: Among 462 pregnancies, 351 (76%) resulted in a liveborn infant, 78 (17%) aborted spontaneously, nine (2%) resulted in stillbirth, and 24 (5%) were terminated. Of the terminations, nine were for congenital malformation. The stillbirth rate was 25.0/1000 total births (95% confidence interval 8.9 to 41.1) compared with a population rate of 5.0/1000, and infant mortality was 19.9/1000 live births (5.3 to 34.6) compared with 6.8/1000. The prevalence of congenital malformations was 94.0/1000 live births (63.5 to 124.5) compared with 9.7/1000 in the general population. When corrected for gestational age, mean birth weight in the sample was 1.3 standard deviations greater than that of infants of non-diabetic mothers. Infants with congenital malformations weighed less than those without.

Conclusion: In an unselected population the infants of women with pre-existent insulin dependent diabetes mellitus have a 10-fold greater risk of a congenital malformation and a fivefold greater risk of being stillborn than infants in the general population. Further improvements in the management of pregnancy in diabetic women are needed if target of the St Vincent declaration of 1989 is to be met.

Key messages

  • Infants of women with established insulin dependent diabetes mellitus have 10 times the population risk of congenital malformations and five times the stillbirth rate

  • Excess mortality among infants of women with pre-existent insulin dependent diabetes mellitus is predominantly due to congenital malformations

  • The birth prevalence of congenital malformations can be reduced by good periconceptional glycaemic control, but the challenge remains to implement this on a population basis

  • Macrosomia remains a problem among infants of women with established insulin dependent diabetes mellitus


    • Accepted 19 May 1997
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