The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force released a final recommendation statement advising that all women be screened for gestational diabetes after 24 weeks of pregnancy.

“Diabetes that begins during pregnancy can cause serious health problems for expectant mothers and their babies,” says task force chair Virginia A. Moyer, MD, MPH “The good news is that screening all women after 24 weeks of pregnancy is simple, and can result in better health outcomes for both the mother and the baby.”

(Guidelines recommend against CKD screening in adults with no symptoms, risk factors)

Gestational diabetes is diabetes that develops during pregnancy. It usually resolves after birth but can put expectant mothers and their babies at risk for a number of health problems. About 240,000, or about 7% of the approximately four million women who give birth each year develop gestational diabetes. The condition is on the rise as obesity, older age during pregnancy, and other risk factors become more common among pregnant women.

The task force recommends screening for gestational diabetes after 24 weeks of pregnancy in all women who do not have symptoms of the condition. The task force has classified it as a B recommendation, which means it has "high certainty that the net benefit is moderate or there is moderate certainty that the net benefit is moderate to substantial."

The task force said it found that the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of screening earlier than 24 weeks of pregnancy. Screening and treatment lower the risk of preeclampsia and other complications of pregnancy, labor, and delivery, the task force said. Preeclampsia is a condition in pregnant women characterized by high blood pressure and high levels of protein in the urine, which can result in life-threatening seizures. Treating diabetes during pregnancy can also prevent babies from growing larger than normal (macrosomia), a condition that can lead to birth injuries.

(American Diabetes Association's new care standards focus on increasing individualized care)

The task force’s final recommendation statement is published online in the Annals of Internal Medicine, as well as on its website at www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org. Before finalizing this recommendation, the task force posted a draft version for public comment in the spring of 2013.