A new research study underway in Calgary is testing whether a device that continually monitors blood sugar levels can help pregnant women with Type 1 diabetes better manage their condition. 

Calgary is the only Canadian city outside of Ontario to take part in the international trial. The study is looking to get a better idea of how effective continuous glucose monitors (CGM) are during pregnancy.

"By providing regular, nearly constant feedback, a continuous glucose monitor shows women which way their blood sugar levels are trending and whether they need to take corrective action," said Dr. Lois Donovan in a release.

She is the principal investigator of the Calgary arm of the study and medical director of diabetes in pregnancy in the Calgary zone for Alberta Health Services (AHS). 

A continuous glucose monitor (CGM) is a small device made up of small sensors inserted into the skin of the abdomen. It picks up on blood sugar levels and transmits readings of those levels every five minutes to a monitor similar to a pager.

For pregnant women with diabetes, it is important to pay close attention to their blood sugar levels to keep their babies healthy and avoid complications in childbirth.

High blood sugar levels can lead to higher birth weights and potentially difficult deliveries. If levels are high before conception and during early pregnancy, it can increase the risk of birth defects for the baby.

50 to 60 women sought in Calgary

In Calgary, researchers with AHS and the University of Calgary are hoping to enrol 50 to 60 women in the study.

Overall, the goal is to have 214 pregnant women and 110 women planning pregnancy recruited from 18 cities — eight in Canada and 10 internationally.

"I had tried a monitor in the past and found the insertion painful but there have been some improvements since then and it's a lot easier to use," said Lauren Moore, a Canmore woman expecting her first child in March who is taking part in the study.

"I'm not as worried about fluctuations in blood sugars that might affect the baby."

For example, Moore says when she is exercising, the CGM can send her a prompt that her blood sugar is dropping that lets her know to ease up the intensity or stabilize her levels with a glass of juice.

Moore has the new device implanted in her abdomen and gets a readout on a wireless device every five minutes.

“Weekly, sometimes twice a week I call the clinic for help because we've looked at my blood sugars, looked at the graphs that the sensors giving me and then we have to change my insulin dosages again, three days after I was just with them.”

The study is led out of Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto and has collaborating sites across Ontario and in the U.S., U.K., Spain, Italy and Israel.

Women with Type 1 diabetes who are planning a pregnancy or who are pregnant can learn more about the Calgary arm of the study by calling 403-955-8358.