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Pharmacologic Treatment of Diabetes in Pregnancy

Bishop, Katherine C., MD*; Harris, Benjamin S., MD, MPH*; Boyd, Brita K., MD; Reiff, Emily S., MD; Brown, Laura, NP, CDE§; Kuller, Jeffrey A., MD

Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey: May 2019 - Volume 74 - Issue 5 - p 289–297
doi: 10.1097/OGX.0000000000000671

Importance Diabetes affects 6% to 9% of pregnancies, with gestational diabetes mellitus accounting for more than 90% of cases. Pregestational and gestational diabetes are associated with significant maternal and fetal risks; therefore, screening and treatment during pregnancy are recommended. Recommendations regarding the preferred treatment of diabetes in pregnancy have recently changed, with slight differences between American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) recommendations.

Objective Our review discusses the diagnosis, management, and treatment of pregestational and gestational diabetes with the oral hypoglycemic agents metformin and glyburide as well as insulin. We also review the evidence for the safety and efficacy of these medications in pregnancy.

Evidence Acquisition Articles were obtained from PubMed, the ACOG Practice Bulletin on Gestational Diabetes Mellitus, and the SMFM statement on the pharmacological treatment of gestational diabetes.

Results Insulin does not cross the placenta and has an established safety profile in pregnancy and is therefore considered a first-line treatment for gestational diabetes. Metformin and glyburide have also been shown to be relatively safe in pregnancy but with more limited long-term data. Regarding maternal and fetal outcomes, metformin is superior to glyburide and similar to insulin.

Conclusions and Relevance Insulin is the preferred pharmacologic treatment according to ACOG. However, SMFM has stated that outcomes with metformin are similar, and it may also be considered as first-line therapy. Both agree that the available data show that metformin is safer and superior to glyburide, and glyburide is no longer recommended as a first-line therapy for the treatment of gestational diabetes.

Target Audience Obstetricians and gynecologists, family physicians.

Learning Objectives After completing this activity, the learner should be better able to compare the maternal/fetal risks associated with glyburide, metformin, and insulin therapy; describe how to initiate insulin therapy (dosing and type of insulin) in patients who fail initial management; and explain the intrapartum and postpartum treatment of preexisting and gestational diabetes.

*Resident Physician, Obstetrics and Gynecology

Assistant Professor, Maternal Fetal Medicine

Fellow, Maternal Fetal Medicine

§Nurse Practitioner, Certified Diabetes Educator, and

Professor, Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC

All authors, faculty, and staff in a position to control the content of this CME activity and their spouses/life partners (if any) have disclosed that they have no financial relationships with, or financial interests in, any commercial organizations relevant to this educational activity.

Correspondence requests to: Katherine C. Bishop, MD, 9206 McQueen Dr, Durham, NC 27705. E-mail:

Copyright © 2019 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.