Some women may develop gestational diabetes in their second trimester, usually after week 24. Find out what causes it and how you can manage it.

Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) happens when the body does not produce enough insulin, or when insulin is not processed properly. When that happens, you can't effectively burn glucose to energy. This causes a build-up of glucose in the blood, also known as hyperglycaemia.

If you're diagnosed with GDM, you must monitor your blood glucose levels during your pregnancy. Here's some basic information about this condition:

Who is at risk?

Any woman can develop gestational diabetes. However, if you're older than 40, have a family or personal history of diabetes or are overweight, you are at greater risk.

How to test for GDM?

You will need to undergo an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). After a night of fasting, you will have a fasting blood sample taken. You'll then be given a sweet drink, and a repeat blood test will be done at one- and two-hour intervals. These tests will be used to determine your blood glucose reading.

What is a healthy blood glucose reading?

The ideal targets for expectant mothers with GDM are 4.5-5.5mmol/L pre-meal and bedtime, and 5.5-6.6mmol/L 2 hours after meal.

How common is GDM?

It's not as uncommon as you think — one in five mothers has diabetes in pregnancy. In fact, it is recommended that all pregnant women get screened for diabetes starting from week 24 of pregnancy so the outcomes can be better managed.

Is it permanent?

The good news is, diabetes in pregnancy will more often than not resolve after the delivery. However, it may persist in a small group, where mums will need long-term follow-up and treatment. The doctor will ask for a repeat OGTT after delivery to assess your condition.

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By Associate Professor TAN Thiam Chye Head & Senior Consultant, Dr TAN Shu Qi Senior O&G Resident,
Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, KK Women's and Children's Hospital

The New Art and Science of Pregnancy and Childbirth 2008, World Scientific
Healthy Start for your Pregnancy 2012, Health Promotion Board Singapore

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