New diagnostic criteria for gestational diabetes mellitus and their impact on the number of diagnoses and pregnancy outcomes

Diabetologia. 2018 Apr;61(4):800-809. doi: 10.1007/s00125-017-4506-x. Epub 2017 Nov 22.


Aims/hypothesis: Detection and management of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) are crucial to reduce the risk of pregnancy-related complications for both mother and child. In 2013, the WHO adopted new diagnostic criteria for GDM to improve pregnancy outcomes. However, the evidence supporting these criteria is limited. Consequently, these new criteria have not yet been endorsed in the Netherlands. The aim of this study was to determine the impact of these criteria on the number of GDM diagnoses and pregnancy outcomes.

Methods: Data were available from 10,642 women who underwent a 75 g OGTT because of risk factors or signs suggestive of GDM. Women were treated if diagnosed with GDM according to the WHO 1999 criteria. Data on pregnancy outcomes were obtained from extensive chart reviews from 4,431 women and were compared between women with normal glucose tolerance (NGT) and women classified into the following groups: (1) GDM according to WHO 1999 criteria; (2) GDM according to WHO 2013 criteria; (3) GDM according to WHO 2013 fasting glucose threshold, but not WHO 1999 criteria; and (4) GDM according to WHO 1999 2 h plasma glucose threshold (2HG), but not WHO 2013 criteria.

Results: Applying the new WHO 2013 criteria would have increased the number of diagnoses by 45% (32% vs 22%) in this population of women at higher risk for GDM. In comparison with women with NGT, women classified as having GDM based only on the WHO 2013 threshold for fasting glucose, who were not treated for GDM, were more likely to have been obese (46.1% vs 28.1%, p < 0.001) and hypertensive (3.3% vs 1.2%, p < 0.001) before pregnancy, and to have had higher rates of gestational hypertension (7.8% vs 4.9%, p = 0.003), planned Caesarean section (10.3% vs 6.5%, p = 0.001) and induction of labour (34.8% vs 28.0%, p = 0.001). In addition, their neonates were more likely to have had an Apgar score <7 at 5 min (4.4% vs 2.6%, p = 0.015) and to have been admitted to the Neonatology Department (15.0% vs 11.1%, p = 0.004). The number of large for gestational age (LGA) neonates was not significantly different between the two groups. Women potentially missed owing to the higher 2HG threshold set by WHO 2013 had similar pregnancy outcomes to women with NGT. These women were all treated for GDM with diet and 20.5% received additional insulin.

Conclusions/interpretation: Applying the WHO 2013 criteria will have a major impact on the number of GDM diagnoses. Using the fasting glucose threshold set by WHO 2013 identifies a group of women with an increased risk of adverse outcomes compared with women with NGT. We therefore support the use of a lower fasting glucose threshold in the Dutch national guideline for GDM diagnosis. However, adopting the WHO 2013 criteria with a higher 2HG threshold would exclude women in whom treatment for GDM seems to be effective.

Keywords: Diagnosis; Diagnostic criteria; GDM; Gestational diabetes mellitus; Pregnancy; Pregnancy outcomes; WHO.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Body Mass Index
  • Diabetes, Gestational / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Fetal Macrosomia / diagnosis
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Humans
  • Mothers
  • Netherlands
  • Obstetrics / standards*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • World Health Organization


  • Blood Glucose