BACKGROUND: Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM) testing and management in Morocco is associated with delays resulting in late commencement of treatment. To reduce delays and to increase access of women to GDM care, a country-adapted intervention targeting primary health care providers was designed to test the hypothesis that detection and initial management of GDM at the primary level of care improves newborn outcomes in terms of lower birthweights and less cases of macrosomia and impacts on maternal weight gain, glucose balance and pregnancy outcomes.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: We conducted a cluster randomized controlled trial in two districts of Morocco. In each district, 10 health centers were randomly selected to serve either as intervention or control sites. Pregnant women attending antenatal care in the study facilities were eligible to participate. At the intervention sites, women were offered GDM screening by capillary glucose testing following International Association of Diabetes in Pregnancy Study Groups/WHO criteria. Women diagnosed with GDM received counselling on nutrition and exercise and were followed up through their health center whereas at control facilities routine practice was applied. Primary outcome was birthweight and secondary outcomes maternal weight gain, glucose control and pregnancy complications. We further assessed GDM prevalence in the intervention arm. Statistical analysis was performed on 210 recruited women. Continuous variables were reported using means while categorical variables using frequencies with tests of independence applying chi-squared tests. Differences of outcome variables between the two groups were estimated by mixed-effects regression models and effect sizes adjusted for confounders. The trial is registered under NCT02979756 at ClinicalTrials.gov.
RESULTS: GDM prevalence reached 23.7% in Marrakech. Birthweight in the intervention group was 147grams lower than in the control group (p = 0.08) as was the proportion of macrosomes (3.5% versus 18.4%; p< 0.001). In the intervention arm, women did two times more follow-ups than at control sites (p = 0.001) and mean follow-up intervals were shorter (11.3 days versus 18.7 days; p < 0.001). Overall, 30% more fasting blood sugar values were balanced (p = 0.005) and mean weekly maternal weight gain 49 grams lower (p = 0.032) in the intervention group. More women from control facilities had a delivery complication whereas more newborn complications were observed in women from intervention facilities. No difference between the two groups existed regarding mode of delivery and mean gestational age at delivery. One of the main limitations of the study was the Hawthorn-effect at control sites that might have led to an underestimation of the effect size.
CONCLUSION: A high GDM prevalence in Morocco calls for a context-adapted screening and management approach to enable early interventions. GDM detection and care through antenatal care at primary health facilities may have positively impacted on newborn birthweight but findings are inconclusive. Results of this study will contribute to the decision on a potential upscaling of the intervention in Morocco. Future research could examine long term metabolic changes including diabetes type 2 in the cohort of women and their children.