New guidelines to help doctors diagnose and treat women with gestational diabetes

A patient undergoing an ultrasound scan at at KK Women's and Children's Hospital. In Singapore, one in five pregnancies - or more than 6,000 women each year - are affected by gestational diabetes.
A patient undergoing an ultrasound scan at at KK Women's and Children's Hospital. In Singapore, one in five pregnancies - or more than 6,000 women each year - are affected by gestational diabetes. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A new set of guidelines which will help doctors here better diagnose and treat women with gestational diabetes has been drawn up, it was announced on Friday. (Jan 12)

These are based on the latest international standards and will help deal with a problem that affects thousands of pregnant women in Singapore every year and can cause health problems that last for life.

In Singapore, one in five pregnancies - or more than 6,000 women each year - are affected by gestational diabetes.

"This is worrying, given that the International Diabetes Federation estimates that one in seven births are affected by gestational diabetes worldwide," said Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor.

She was speaking at the first Singapore Diabetes in Pregnancy Conference held at the KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH) on Friday.

At the event, Dr Khor announced the new guidelines drawn up by the College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Singapore.

The new recommendations are more comprehensive than previous ones and include a focus on screening for all women and not just those deemed to be at high risk, said Professor Tan Kok Hian, who heads the perinatal audit and epidemiology unit at KKH.

"We realised that the gestational diabetes rates have increased," he said, noting that previously only about one in 20 had such diabetes.

In Singapore, two-thirds of the mothers who have gestational diabetes go on to develop diabetes later in life. The children born from such pregnancies run the same risk and are more likely to be obese in childhood.

In the United States, only 3 to 5 per cent of pregnancies are affected by this condition.

This is despite the fact that a 2015 report by the International Diabetes Federation found the US to have the highest proportion of diabetics among developed nations. Singapore came in second.

The move to help women with gestational diabetes is part of a national effort to fight against diabetes on all fronts - from raising awareness about diets to encouraging people to exercise more regularly.

It is estimated that there are around 400,000 people with diabetes in Singapore, a third of whom do not know they have the condition.