The Wider Impact of the COVID‑19 Pandemic on Gestational Diabetes Screening, Diagnosis, and Outcomes
Gestational diabetes is one of the most common medical problems in pregnancy. It occurs when there are high blood sugar levels late in pregnancy. Gestational diabetes requires treatment during pregnancy to decrease the risk of complications for both mother and baby. The Diabetes Canada guidelines recommend that all pregnant individuals be screened for gestational diabetes between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. This screening test involves going to a lab, having a sugary drink, waiting an hour in the lab, and having a blood test drawn after the hour. With the COVID‑19 pandemic, huge changes were made to healthcare delivery. Diabetes care changed from being delivered in person to mostly being done virtually. Specialized staff such as diabetes nurses were redeployed to COVID‑19 supportive roles. Also, pregnant patients and obstetric care providers voiced concerns about the risk of getting COVID‑19 while doing the gestational diabetes screening blood tests. To address this, our team developed a COVID‑19 screening strategy for centres that were severely affected by the pandemic. We do not know what impact the pandemic or the new screening criteria had on pregnant individuals and their babies. Research objective: We will examine if the COVID‑19 pandemic led to unintended harm in the pregnant population regarding gestational diabetes screening, pregnancy outcomes and missed diagnoses. Methods: We will perform a population-based study of pregnant individuals in Alberta, Ontario and Manitoba. This study will use established databases in the three provinces to determine the extent of the impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic on the health of mothers and their babies. Impact of research: It is essential that we identify the impact COVID‑19 has had on this high-risk pregnant population. The results of this study will inform best practices regarding the screening for and treatment of gestational diabetes in future health emergencies and pandemics.