An online, lifestyle-based weight loss initiative known as the Balance After Baby (BAB) program is effective at reducing weight retention a year after birth among women with recent gestational diabetes.
Specifically, results of the study were positive in women of most ethnicities, bar those of a small group of Hispanic origin.
Jacinda Nicklas, MD, from the University of Colorado at Denver, Aurora, presented findings of the BAB trial during the virtual annual scientific sessions of the American Diabetes Association. She was coprincipal investigator alongside Ellen Seely, MD, from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston.
“Looking at the entire population of women on the BAB program, there was a trend in weight loss from 6 weeks postpartum to 12 months (P = .09), and significantly less postpartum weight retention at 12 months (P = .04),” Dr. Nicklas said.
“Through this effect on postpartum weight retention, the BAB program has potential to delay or prevent development of type 2 diabetes in women with recent gestational diabetes, while the web-based, remote nature of the program is scalable and very relevant in current times,” she added. “However, the lack of efficacy in Hispanic women means it needs to be modified to be successful in this ethnic group.”
Frank Qian, MD, who also presented during the same session, said the BAB program has potential as a viable way of preventing both future pregnancy complications and the progression to overt type 2 diabetes in this high-risk population.
“Large-scale epidemiologic studies show us that weight gain from pregnancy is a major risk factor for long-term cardiometabolic risk, particularly for women with a history of gestational diabetes,” he observed. “In turn, it is critical to implement lifestyle interventions that can help women get as close to the weight they were before pregnancy as possible and keep that weight off.”
Postpartum weight retention a modifiable risk factor for type 2 diabetes
Current evidence shows that a large proportion of women who develop gestational diabetes go on to develop type 2 diabetes within 10 years and that women with a history of gestational diabetes are more likely to retain or gain weight postpartum.
Dr. Nicklas also pointed out that obesity and weight gain are the strongest modifiable risk factors for type 2 diabetes.
“We know from the Diabetes Prevention Program [DPP] that an intensive lifestyle program in women who had had gestational diabetes led to a 53% reduction in type 2 diabetes,” Dr. Nicklas noted.
However, she added there were barriers to adhering to the intensive DPP program – which required 16 one-on-one meetings in the first 24 weeks – including travel, as some participants lived quite remotely, or family responsibilities. Consequently, Dr. Nicklas and colleagues developed the BAB pilot trial, which involved web-based delivery with remote coaching.
The trial involved women with a history of gestational diabetes who were, on average, 7 weeks postpartum. The key outcome was weight at 12 months, compared with both 6-week postpartum weight and prepregnancy weight.
Based on encouraging results in the pilot trial – in which the intervention group showed significant weight loss from 6-week postpartum weight and in 12-month weight retention – a larger, two-site trial was initiated, the BAB Intervention randomized, controlled trial.
Outcome measures were the same as for the pilot study. The 181 participants were aged 18-45 years, had recent gestational diabetes, and had a mean prepregnancy body mass index of approximately 29 kg/m2. Around half were college educated, and 28% were from lower income households. Overall, 48% were white, 22% Asian, 17% African American, and 13% were of other ethnicities, with just over a third being Hispanic.
The initial study visit was at 6 weeks postpartum. Women were randomized to the behavioral intervention website plus a lifestyle coach group or to a control group that consisted of a website plus knowledge links.
The intervention website required women to complete some DPP-derived and bonus modules, and also featured action plans, tracked weight and steps, and had a direct link to contact their lifestyle coach. Follow-up visits were held at 6 and 12 months and A1c, waist circumference, and height/weight were measured. A total of 86% eligible women completed the 6- and 12-month visits.