Background. Identifying women with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) allows interventions to improve perinatal outcomes. A fasting plasma glucose (FPG) level ≥5.1 mmol/L is 100% specific for a diagnosis of GDM. The International Association of Diabetes and Pregnancy Study Groups acknowledges that FPG <4.5 mmol/L is associated with a low probability of GDM.
Objectives. The validity of selective screening based on the presence of risk factors was compared with the universal application of FPG ≥4.5 mmol/L to identify women with GDM. FPG ≥4.5 mmol/L or the presence of one or more risk factors was assumed to indicate an intermediate to high risk of GDM and therefore the need for an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT).
Methods. Consecutive black South African (SA) women were recruited to a 2-hour 75 g OGTT at 24 – 28 weeks’ gestation in an urban community health clinic. Of 969 women recruited, 666 underwent an OGTT, and of these 589 were eligible for analysis. The glucose oxidase laboratory method was used to measure plasma glucose concentrations. The World Health Organization GDM diagnostic criteria were applied. All participants underwent a risk factor assessment. The χ2 test was used to determine associations between risk factors and a positive diagnosis of GDM. The sensitivity and specificity of a positive diagnosis of GDM were calculated for FPG ≥4.5 mmol/L, FPG ≥5.1 mmol/L, and the presence of one or more risk factors.
Results. The prevalence of overt diabetes mellitus and GDM was 0.5% and 7.0%, respectively. Risk factor-based selective screening indicated that 204/589 (34.6%) of participants needed an OGTT, but 18/41 (43.9%) of positive GDM diagnoses were missed. Universal screening using the FPG threshold of ≥4.5 mmol/L indicated that 152/589 (25.8%) of participants needed an OGTT, and 1/41 (2.4%) of positive diagnoses were missed. An FPG of ≥5.1 mmol/L identified 36/41 (87.8%) of GDM-positive participants. The sensitivity and specificity of the presence of one or more risk factors were 56% and 67%, respectively. The sensitivity and specificity of FPG ≥4.5 mmol/L were 98% and 80%, respectively.
Conclusions. Universal screening using FPG ≥4.5 mmol/L had greater sensitivity and specificity in identifying GDM-affected women and required fewer women to undergo a resource-intensive diagnostic OGTT than risk factor-based selective screening. A universal screening strategy using FPG ≥4.5 mmol/L may be more efficient and cost-effective than risk factor-based selective screening for GDM in black SA women.