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Food & Health

Frequently Asked Questions About Gestational Diabetes

Cravings during pregnancy is normal but hold on to those extra carb intakes, especially if you’re at risk of having gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM).

What is GDM?

GDM is a type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy, more likely during the second and third trimester.

GDM arises when the body develops a glucose tolerance disorder. During pregnancy, the body naturally develops an insulin resistance, affecting the body’s insulin production and renders the body ineffective in maintaining blood sugar levels at an optimal range. Consequently, the rise in blood sugar levels results in gestational diabetes.

In many cases, it disappears after giving birth. But if left unchecked, it can have longer term implications for expecting mums and their infants. 

What causes it?

Factors include prior family history of Type 2 diabetes, genetics, and excess weight gain before pregnancy or even gestational weight gain.

Is it a common condition?

Gestational diabetes occurs among 10 to 20 per cent of pregnant women in Singapore. In 2009, a joint effort by the National University Health System, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, and A*STAR’s Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences produced a comprehensive study, Growing Up In Singapore Towards Healthy Outcomes (GUSTO), which revealed that out of the 909 pregnant participants, 17.6% were diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

The health authorities have also implemented nationwide initiatives for the early intervention and treatment of diabetes in Singapore. In 2010, local studies showed that the total economic cost to treat diabetes for the Singapore workforce was estimated at US$787 million (S$1.06 billion). This is expected to see a 2.4 fold increase by 2050. These costs are inclusive of the direct medical costs towards diabetes treatment and indirect productivity-related losses.

How serious can it be?

During pregnancy, women with gestational diabetes are at risk of developing preeclampsia, a form of high blood pressure associated with pregnancy, which can put the baby at risk of premature delivery. Moreover, infants are at risk of developing birth defects, hypoglycemia, or fetal death.

Studies conducted by the US National Institute of Health have shown that women who have developed gestational diabetes during pregnancy have a 20 to 50% chance of developing Type 2 diabetes in the future. They are also predisposing their children to the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and obesity.

How can I prevent it?

Awareness is key but more importantly, pregnant mums should strive to keep healthy not only with their food choices, but also with physical activity.

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