Screening for gestational diabetes; past, present and future

Diabet Med. 2002 May;19(5):351-8. doi: 10.1046/j.1464-5491.2002.00684.x.


Gestational diabetes is carbohydrate intolerance, with onset or first recognition of hyperglycaemia during pregnancy. Several studies have suggested that gestational hyperglycaemia is associated with adverse maternal and fetal outcomes, promoting the case for screening. Conversely, others argue that screening for gestational diabetes may colour the clinical judgement, influencing further management, e.g. more 'unjustified' caesarean sections. Additionally, the lack of definitive data either on a clear-cut glycaemic threshold for the development of adverse outcomes or on the impact of intervention is emphasized by opponents of screening. This review attempts to evaluate the available data on screening for gestational diabetes. Oral glucose tolerance test is promoted on the basis that the diabetogenic stress of pregnancy is encountered during late gestation and is best recognized in the fed state. There are different tests, including the 1 h/50-g, 2 h/75-g and 3 h/100-g tests, with practical limitations, including the time and cost involved and the unpleasant supra-physiological glucose load that is unrelated to body weight, and issues of reproducibility and sensitivity/specificity profiles. Despite its convenience, the poor sensitivity of random glucose has precluded its routine use for screening. Fasting glucose appears to be promising but further testing is required to ensure satisfactory sensitivity/specificity in different populations. Despite its limitations, the oral glucose tolerance test has become established as the 'most acceptable' diagnostic test for gestational diabetes. More convenient methods, e.g. fasting or random or post-load glucose, have to be validated therefore against the oral glucose tolerance test to gain acceptance for routine screening.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Diabetes, Gestational / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Mass Screening / trends*
  • Pregnancy
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Blood Glucose