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Babysteps digital programme benefits women with history of gestational diabetes

Women with a history of gestational diabetes who are following a hybrid lifestyle intervention walk an extra 500 steps per day compared to those receiving standard routine care, a new study indicates.

According to a randomised controlled trial conducted by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) East Midlands and West Midlands, women with a history of gestational diabetes benefited from following a hybrid lifestyle intervention, which included access to Babysteps mHealth.

Gestational diabetes affects around five to 20 per cent of pregnancies and women who have had gestational diabetes are ten times more at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Researchers are calling for more strategies to reduce the progression of gestational diabetes to type 2 diabetes.

During the trial, which involved Professor Sara Ponusamy, the team of academics examined the lifestyles and activity patterns of 293 women, all of whom had a previous history of gestational diabetes.

The recruited participants were randomly split into two groups and either received routine care or followed the hybrid lifestyle intervention.

The results show that the participants following the intervention walked an extra 500 steps per day although the difference was not significant. This group also reported higher self-efficacy for exercise, lower feelings of anxiety and a higher quality of life. The overall intervention was found to be cost-effective.

Professor Kamlesh Khunti CBE, Director of NIHR ARC East Midlands and the Real World Evidence Unit and Professor of Primary Care Diabetes and Vascular Medicine at the University of Leicester, lead author of the study, said: “Women with a recent history of gestational diabetes are up to 10 times more at risk of developing type 2 diabetes so it is vital that we help this population prevent a diagnosis by promoting healthy and active lifestyles.

“Babysteps is an excellent programme that empowers women with a history of gestational diabetes to take control of their health and reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.”

He added: “By focusing on small changes in exercise, Babysteps helps women to build healthy habits that can last a lifetime.”

The researchers are now calling for further research to improve participant engagement with physical activity interventions in multi-ethnic populations with a history of gestational diabetes.

Professor Khunti said: “It is crucial to ensure that physical activity interventions are engaging and effective for women from diverse ethnic backgrounds.

“Further research in this area is necessary to develop tailored interventions that consider cultural and linguistic factors, as well as personal preferences and barriers to physical activity.”

Developed by the multi-disciplinary team at the Leicester Diabetes Centre (LDC) and supported by NIHR ARC East Midlands and North West London, Babysteps is the first digital programme of its kind to offer support and advice to women at risk of developing type 2 diabetes as a result of gestational diabetes.

If you are interested in finding out more about Babysteps and how you can make it available in your area, please get in touch with the Implementation Team at LDC via

  • To access the full research study, click here.
  • To download the summary poster of the key findings, click here.

Published on: 27 Jul 2023