Combined diet and exercise interventions for preventing gestational diabetes mellitus

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017 Nov 13;11(11):CD010443. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD010443.pub3.


Background: Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is associated with a wide range of adverse health consequences for women and their infants in the short and long term. With an increasing prevalence of GDM worldwide, there is an urgent need to assess strategies for GDM prevention, such as combined diet and exercise interventions. This is an update of a Cochrane review that was first published in 2015.

Objectives: To assess the effects of diet interventions in combination with exercise interventions for pregnant women for preventing GDM, and associated adverse health consequences for the mother and her infant/child.

Search methods: We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group's Trials Register (27 November 2016) and reference lists of retrieved studies.

Selection criteria: We included randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and cluster-RCTs, comparing combined diet and exercise interventions with no intervention (i.e. standard care), that reported on GDM diagnosis as an outcome. Quasi-RCTs were excluded. Cross-over trials were not eligible for inclusion. We planned to include RCTs comparing two or more different diet/exercise interventions, however none were identified.

Data collection and analysis: Two review authors independently assessed study eligibility, extracted data, assessed the risk of bias of the included trials and assessed quality of evidence for selected maternal and infant/child outcomes using the GRADE approach. We checked data for accuracy.

Main results: In this update, we included 23 RCTs (involving 8918 women and 8709 infants) that compared combined diet and exercise interventions with no intervention (standard care). The studies varied in the diet and exercise programs evaluated and health outcomes reported. None reported receiving funding from a drug manufacturer or agency with interests in the results. Overall risk of bias was judged to be unclear due to the lack of methodological detail reported. Most studies were undertaken in high-income countries.For our primary review outcomes, there was a possible reduced risk of GDM in the diet and exercise intervention group compared with the standard care group (average risk ratio (RR) 0.85, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.71 to 1.01; 6633 women; 19 RCTs; Tau² = 0.05; I² = 42%; P = 0.07; moderate-quality evidence). There was also a possible reduced risk of caesarean section (RR 0.95, 95% CI 0.88 to 1.02; 6089 women; 14 RCTs; moderate-quality evidence). No clear differences were seen between groups for pre-eclampsia (RR 0.98, 95% CI 0.79 to 1.22; 5366 participants; 8 RCTs; low-quality evidence), pregnancy-induced hypertension and/or hypertension (average RR 0.78, 95% CI 0.47 to 1.27; 3073 participants; 6 RCTs; Tau² = 0.19; I² = 62%; very low-quality evidence), perinatal mortality (RR 0.82, 95% CI 0.42 to 1.63; 3757 participants; 2 RCTs; low-quality evidence) or large-for-gestational age (RR 0.93, 95% CI 0.81 to 1.07; 5353 participants; 11 RCTs; low-quality evidence). No data were reported for infant mortality or morbidity composite.Subgroup analyses (based on trial design, maternal body mass index (BMI) and ethnicity) revealed no clear differential treatment effects. We were unable to assess the impact of maternal age, parity and specific features of the diet and exercise interventions. Findings from sensitivity analyses (based on RCT quality) generally supported those observed in the main analyses. We were not able to perform subgroup analyses based on maternal age, parity or nature of the exercise/dietary interventions due to the paucity of information/data on these characteristics and the inability to meaningfully group intervention characteristics.For most of the secondary review outcomes assessed using GRADE, there were no clear differences between groups, including for perineal trauma (RR 1.27, 95% CI 0.78 to 2.05; 2733 participants; 2 RCTs; moderate-quality evidence), neonatal hypoglycaemia (average RR 1.42, 95% CI 0.67 to 2.98; 3653 participants; 2 RCTs; Tau² = 0.23; I² = 77%; low quality evidence); and childhood adiposity (BMI z score) (MD 0.05, 95% CI -0.29 to 0.40; 794 participants; 2 RCTs; Tau² = 0.04; I² = 59%; low-quality evidence). However, there was evidence of less gestational weight gain in the diet and exercise intervention group compared with the control group (mean difference (MD) -0.89 kg, 95% CI -1.39 to -0.40; 5052 women; 16 RCTs; Tau² = 0.37; I² = 43%;moderate-quality evidence). No data were reported for maternal postnatal depression or type 2 diabetes; childhood/adulthood type 2 diabetes, or neurosensory disability.

Authors' conclusions: Moderate-quality evidence suggests reduced risks of GDM and caesarean section with combined diet and exercise interventions during pregnancy as well as reductions in gestational weight gain, compared with standard care. There were no clear differences in hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, perinatal mortality, large-for-gestational age, perineal trauma, neonatal hypoglycaemia, and childhood adiposity (moderate- tovery low-quality evidence).Using GRADE methodology, the evidence was assessed as moderate to very low quality. Downgrading decisions were predominantly due to design limitations (risk of bias), and imprecision (uncertain effect estimates, and at times, small sample sizes and low event rates), however two outcomes (pregnancy-induced hypertension/hypertension and neonatal hypoglycaemia), were also downgraded for unexplained inconsistency (statistical heterogeneity).Due to the variability of the diet and exercise components tested in the included studies, the evidence in this review has limited ability to inform practice. Future studies could describe the interventions used in more detail, if and how these influenced behaviour change and ideally be standardised between studies. Studies could also consider using existing core outcome sets to facilitate more standardised reporting.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cesarean Section / statistics & numerical data
  • Combined Modality Therapy / methods
  • Diabetes, Gestational / prevention & control*
  • Diet*
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / epidemiology
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Perinatal Mortality
  • Perineum / injuries
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Cardiovascular / epidemiology
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic