While gestational diabetes affects many pregnant women in Singapore, it can be managed.
In Singapore, one in five pregnancies — that is more than 6,000 women each year — is affected by gestational diabetes. This figure is high by international standards — according to the International Diabetes Federation, only one in seven births is affected by gestational diabetes globally.
In Singapore, it has also been found that two out of three mothers with gestational diabetes will develop diabetes later in life.
Gestational diabetes is a condition that happens during pregnancy, usually in the second half. Hormonal changes predispose the mother to build up glucose in her blood. If her pancreas cannot produce enough insulin to manage this, her blood sugar levels will rise and cause gestational diabetes.
One of the complications of gestational diabetes is an increased risk of having a baby who is larger than normal, leading to possible birth injuries to the baby, or the mother faces a higher chance of requiring a C-section to deliver the baby.
Other problems include fetal abnormalities if she is an undiagnosed diabetic, perinatal death, pre-term birth, an increased likelihood of developing high blood pressure or preeclampsia. Conversely, at delivery, there could be issues of low blood sugar and delayed lung maturity in the baby, which can result in temporary breathing problems. The child is also more likely to develop type 2 diabetes as an adult.
Your chances of getting gestational diabetes are higher if you were over 35 years of age, overweight before pregnancy, or have a family history of diabetes. Other risk factors include having given birth to a large baby in an earlier pregnancy or a baby who was stillborn or had certain birth defects.
Screening tests for gestational diabetes are recommended between Week 24 and 28 of the pregnancy. If you have had gestational diabetes before, or if your doctor is concerned about your risk of developing the condition, the test may be performed before the 13th week of pregnancy.
If you are diagnosed with the condition, your doctor will want you to monitor your blood sugar levels to ensure good control to minimise complications. You may need to take insulin or other medications to assist in optimal control.
Faithfully following the treatment regimen will help you experience a healthy pregnancy as you would without gestational diabetes and deliver a healthy baby.
If you are planning to conceive, lower your risk of acquiring the disease by:
- Keeping your weight in a healthy range
- Eating healthily
- Exercising regularly