Gestational diabetes during pregnancy: How it affects your health, lifestyle and baby

Updated: Jun 27, 2021

You’ve never had diabetes, so why have you developed the condition now that you’re expecting a baby? How does this affect your health, lifestyle and baby? Known as gestational diabetes, this condition is more common than you might think.



What is gestational diabetes?

Gestational diabetes is a condition in which high blood glucose (sugar) develops during pregnancy, in a person without pre-existing diabetes. It can happen at any stage of pregnancy but is more common in the second or third trimester.


How can I tell if I have gestational diabetes?

The condition usually doesn’t give rise to any symptoms. In Singapore, it is recommended that all pregnant women be screened for gestational diabetes at 24 to 28 weeks of gestation, unless they have a history of pre-existing diabetes or pre-diabetes. The oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) is used to screen for gestational diabetes. After a night of fasting, the pregnant woman will have a blood sample taken the next morning to check their fasting blood glucose level. They will then be given a 75g glucose drink, and a repeat blood test will be done at one- and two-hour intervals.


Why me?

You’re not alone. Gestational diabetes is a common condition and can affect up to one in four to five women in Singapore. Hormonal changes during the second and third trimesters can contribute to high blood glucose levels by impairing the action of insulin on cells.


Be assured that many women with gestational diabetes go on to deliver healthy babies. Managing the condition well and keeping the glucose levels within the desired target range will reduce the risk of any complications related to gestational diabetes and contribute to a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.


The condition can be controlled through suitable lifestyle changes, such as having a healthy diet and incorporating physical activities, and if necessary, by adding medications.


How does gestational diabetes affect my pregnancy?

If it is not properly controlled, it can increase the risk of complications for both mum and baby, such as:


Mum:

  • High blood pressure and pre-eclampsia

  • Pre-term delivery

  • Delivery complications due to large baby, which may necessitate C-section delivery

  • Increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in future


Baby

  • Excess growth (macrosomia)

  • Pre-term delivery

  • Low blood sugar at birth

  • Jaundice

  • Breathing problems


Who is prone to getting diabetes during pregnancy, and can it be prevented?

Women are considered to be high risk for gestational diabetes if they:

  • have a pre-pregnancy BMI of more than 30 kg/m2

  • have GDM history in previous pregnancies

  • have a history of polycystic ovary syndrome

  • have pre-diabetes history

  • have delivered a baby 4 kg and heavier

  • are 40 years and older


By maintaining a healthy weight, having a healthy diet and being active, women can generally lower their risk of developing gestational diabetes.