In the past year, the Singapore government has spent huge efforts to educate the public on diabetes. As the number of Singaporeans suffering from diabetes increases, coupled with the long-term health and financial implications of this chronic disease, diabetes awareness and education on its prevention and management is certainly important to each and every one of us.
While most Singaporeans would be quite familiar with diabetes in the general population by now, the awareness for gestational diabetes is somehow still on the low side. So, what is gestational diabetes and why should pregnant mothers be concerned?
What is Gestational Diabetes?
- Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM) is a type of diabetic disease that occurs in women during pregnancy
- The condition usually resolves after the pregnancy. Those with persisting diabetes after pregnancy probably have underlying diabetes to begin with. Even women whose condition resolves after their pregnancy are at an increased risk of developing diabetes later in life.
What is Your Risk of Gestational Diabetes during Pregnancy?
- The incidence of GDM in Singapore is about 20% i.e. 1 in 5 pregnant women in Singapore may suffer from GDM during their pregnancy
- Risk factors for GDM include advanced maternal age, having a family history of diabetes, being overweight, or having had GDM in previous pregnancies
- Studies have shown that pregnant women, even in the absence of risk factors, may still develop GDM
How is Gestational Diabetes Diagnosed?
- An Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT) is performed between Week 24 and 28 of pregnancy for all pregnant mothers
- The OGTT will take around 2 hours. A period of fasting of 8 hours has to be observed before taking the test. At the start of the test, the pregnant mother will have a blood test done to measure the fasting blood sugar level. She will then be asked to take a glucose drink (containing 75g of sugar) and blood tests repeated 1 and 2 hours later. Based on the blood glucose levels measured at the OGTT, your obstetrician will be able to diagnose if you have Gestational Diabetes.
What are the Complications of Gestational Diabetes?
- If a pregnant mother has gestational diabetes, she has a higher risk of developing pre-eclampsia, where her blood pressure may be elevated with possible end-organ damage
- There is an increased risk of having a c-section for delivery as the baby may be bigger than normal or because of pre-eclampsia
- The risk of premature delivery is higher, and the baby may require neonatal intensive care
- Babies born to mothers of gestational diabetes have a higher risk of neonatal jaundice, hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar), respiratory distress due to lung immaturity, and a higher risk of developing obesity and diabetes in future.