Artificial pancreas could control type 1 diabetes during pregnancy

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Type 1 diabetes

Researchers say use of an artificial pancreas device could treat type 1 diabetes during pregnancy.

Diabetes poses problems for pregnant women from difficult to control blood sugar levels. Infants are more likely to be stillborn, have congenital birth defects and high birth weight. The device was shown in a study to keep blood sugar levels normal in women studied with type 1 diabetes.

Early new research shows the artificial pancreas could help control blood sugar levels during pregnancy that in turn would ensure healthier infants and reduce pregnancy risks for women living with the disease.

Dr. Dr Helen Murphy of Cambridge University led a study showing the device kept blood sugar levels normal in ten pregnant women with type 1 diabetes. The device also controlled blood sugar levels during sleep, preventing episodes of hypoglycemia or low blood sugar that can lead to coma and death.


The artificial pancreas system is a combination of a blood glucose monitor and a ‘closed loop insulin delivery system that has been used in children with type 1 diabetes. The study is the first to show the potential benefit for pregnant women with the disease.

According to Dr. Murphy, “For women with Type 1 diabetes, self-management is particularly challenging during pregnancy due to physiological and hormonal changes. Previous studies indicate that pregnant women with the condition spend an average of ten hours a day with glucose levels outside the recommended target.”

She adds high glucose levels increase the chance of stillbirth, high birth weight, premature delivery and congenital malformations.

More research is needed on larger groups of women before the artificial pancreas can be considered safe. Diabetes UK Director of Research, Dr Iain Frame says ongoing research has “huge potential” to improve pregnancy outcomes for women living with type 1 diabetes and shown in the study to control blood sugar levels.

Diabetes UK