A focus on women with diabetes and their offspring


In 2021, diabetes and related complications was the 8th leading cause of death in the United States.1 As of 2022, more than 11% of the U.S. population had diabetes and 38% of the adult U.S. population had prediabetes.2 Diabetes is the most expensive chronic condition in the United States, where $1 of every $4 in health care costs is spent on care.3

Where this is most concerning is diabetes in pregnancy. While childbirth rates in the United States have decreased since the 2007 high of 4.32 million births4 to 3.66 million in 2021,5 the incidence of diabetes in pregnancy – both pregestational and gestational – has increased. The rate of pregestational diabetes in 2021 was 10.9 per 1,000 births, a 27% increase from 2016 (8.6 per 1,000).6 The percentage of those giving birth who also were diagnosed with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) was 8.3% in 2021, up from 6.0% in 2016.7

Diabetes in pregnancy not only increases risks of adverse events for mother and fetus: Increasing research suggests the condition signals longer-term risks for the mother and child throughout their lifetimes. Adverse outcomes for an infant born to a mother with diabetes include a higher risk of obesity and diabetes as adults, potentially leading to a forward-feeding cycle.

Dr. E. Albert Reece, University of Maryland School of Medicine

Dr. E. Albert Reece

We and our colleagues established the Diabetes in Pregnancy Study Group of North America in 1997 because we had witnessed too frequently the devastating diabetes-induced pregnancy complications in our patients. The mission we set forth was to provide a forum for dialogue among maternal-fetal medicine subspecialists. The three main goals we set forth to support this mission were to provide a catalyst for research, contribute to the creation and refinement of medical policies, and influence professional practices in diabetes in pregnancy.8

In the last quarter century, DPSG-NA, through its annual and biennial meetings, has brought together several hundred practitioners that include physicians, nurses, statisticians, researchers, nutritionists, and allied health professionals, among others. As a group, it has improved the detection and management of diabetes in pregnant women and their offspring through knowledge sharing and influencing policies on GDM screening, diagnosis, management, and treatment. Our members have shown that preconceptional counseling for women with diabetes can significantly reduce congenital malformation and perinatal mortality compared with those women with pregestational diabetes who receive no counseling.9,10

We have addressed a wide variety of topics including the paucity of data in determining the timing of delivery for women with diabetes and the Institute of Medicine/National Academy of Medicine recommendations of gestational weight gain and risks of not adhering to them. We have learned about new scientific discoveries that reveal underlying mechanisms to diabetes-related birth defects and potential therapeutic targets; and we have discussed the health literacy requirements, ethics, and opportunities for lifestyle intervention.11-16

But we need to do more.

Two risk factors are at play: Women continue to choose to have babies at later ages and their pregnancies continue to be complicated by the rising incidence of obesity (see Figure 1 and Figure 2).

Figure 1: Change in maternal age over time Dr. Reece and Dr. Miodovnik

The global obesity epidemic has become a significant concern for all aspects of health and particularly for diabetes in pregnancy.

Figure 2: Percentage of U.S. women over age 20 who are obese vs. "normal" BMI Dr. Reece and Dr. Miodovnik

In 1990, 24.9% of women in the United States were obese; in 2010, 35.8%; and now more than 41%. Some experts project that by 2030 more than 80% of women in the United States will be overweight or obese.21

If we are to stop this cycle of diabetes begets more diabetes, now more than ever we need to come together and accelerate the research and education around the diabetes in pregnancy. Join us at this year’s DPSG-NA meeting Oct. 26-28 to take part in the knowledge sharing, discussions, and planning. More information can be found online at

Dr. Miodovnik is adjunct professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at University of Maryland School of Medicine. Dr. Reece is professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences and senior scientist at the Center for Birth Defects Research at University of Maryland School of Medicine.


1. Xu J et al. Mortality in the United States, 2021. NCHS Data Brief. 2022 Dec;(456):1-8. PMID: 36598387.

2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diabetes data and statistics.

3. American Diabetes Association. The Cost of Diabetes.

4. Martin JA et al. Births: Final data for 2007. Natl Vital Stat Rep. 2010 Aug 9;58(24):1-85. PMID: 21254725.

5. Osterman MJK et al. Births: Final data for 2021. Natl Vital Stat Rep. 2023 Jan;72(1):1-53. PMID: 36723449.

6. Gregory ECW and Ely DM. Trends and characteristics in prepregnancy diabetes: United States, 2016-2021. Natl Vital Stat Rep. 2023 May;72(6):1-13. PMID: 37256333.

7. QuickStats: Percentage of mothers with gestational diabetes, by maternal age – National Vital Statistics System, United States, 2016 and 2021. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2023 Jan 6;72(1):16. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm7201a4.

8. Langer O et al. The Diabetes in Pregnancy Study Group of North America – Introduction and summary statement. Prenat Neonat Med. 1998;3(6):514-6.

9. Willhoite MB et al. The impact of preconception counseling on pregnancy outcomes. The experience of the Maine Diabetes in Pregnancy Program. Diabetes Care. 1993 Feb;16(2):450-5. doi: 10.2337/diacare.16.2.450.

10. McElvy SS et al. A focused preconceptional and early pregnancy program in women with type 1 diabetes reduces perinatal mortality and malformation rates to general population levels. J Matern Fetal Med. 2000 Jan-Feb;9(1):14-20. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1520-6661(200001/02)9:1<14::AID-MFM5>3.0.CO;2-K.

11. Rosen JA et al. The history and contributions of the Diabetes in Pregnancy Study Group of North America (1997-2015). Am J Perinatol. 2016 Nov;33(13):1223-6. doi: 10.1055/s-0036-1585082.

12. Driggers RW and Baschat A. The 12th meeting of the Diabetes in Pregnancy Study Group of North America (DPSG-NA): Introduction and overview. J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2012 Jan;25(1):3-4. doi: 10.3109/14767058.2012.626917.

13. Langer O et al. The proceedings of the Diabetes in Pregnancy Study Group of North America 2009 conference. J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2010 Mar;23(3):196-8. doi: 10.3109/14767050903550634.

14. Reece EA et al. A consensus report of the Diabetes in Pregnancy Study Group of North America Conference, Little Rock, Ark., May 2002. J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2002 Dec;12(6):362-4. doi: 10.1080/jmf.12.6.362.364.

15. Reece EA and Maulik D. A consensus conference of the Diabetes in Pregnancy Study Group of North America. J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2002 Dec;12(6):361. doi: 10.1080/jmf.12.6.361.361.

16. Gabbe SG. Summation of the second meeting of the Diabetes in Pregnancy Study Group of North America (DPSG-NA). J Matern Fetal Med. 2000 Jan-Feb;9(1):3-9.

17. Vital Statistics of the United States 1990: Volume I – Natality.

18. Martin JA et al. Births: final data for 2000. Natl Vital Stat Rep. 2002 Feb 12;50(5):1-101. PMID: 11876093.

19. Martin JA et al. Births: final data for 2010. Natl Vital Stat Rep. 2012 Aug 28;61(1):1-72. PMID: 24974589.

20. CDC Website. Normal weight, overweight, and obesity among adults aged 20 and over, by selected characteristics: United States.

21. Wang Y et al. Has the prevalence of overweight, obesity, and central obesity levelled off in the United States? Trends, patterns, disparities, and future projections for the obesity epidemic. Int J Epidemiol. 2020 Jun 1;49(3):810-23. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyz273.

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