Screening for hyperglycaemia in pregnancy: a rapid update for the National Screening Committee

Authors: Waugh N, Royle P, Clar C, Henderson R, Cummins E, Hadden D, Lindsay R, Pearson D

Journal: Health Technology Assessment Volume: 14 Issue: 45

Publication date: September 2010



Waugh N, Royle P, Clar C, Henderson R, Cummins E, Hadden D, et al.Screening for hyperglycaemia in pregnancy: a rapid update for the National Screening Committee. Health Technol Assess 2010;14(45)

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Screening for gestational diabetes has long been a controversial topic. A previous Health Technology Assessment (HTA) report reviewed literature on screening for gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) and assessed the case for screening against the criteria set by the National Screening Committee.


To update a previous HTA report which reviewed the literature on screening for GDM by examining evidence that has emerged since that last report, including the Australian Carbohydrate Intolerance Study in Pregnant Women (ACHOIS), the Maternal and Fetal Medicine Units Network (MFMUN) trial and the Hyperglycemia and Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes (HAPO) study. To review data on recent trends in maternal age at birth and on the prevalence of overweight and obesity and the effect on prevalence of GDM.

Data sources

A systematic review and meta-analysis of the literature was carried out. The bibliographic databases used were MEDLINE (1996 to January 2009), EMBASE (1996 to December 2009), the Cochrane Library 2008 issue 4, the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination database and the Web of Science.

Review methods

For the review of treatment with oral drugs versus insulin, a full systematic review and meta-analysis was carried out. The results of the ACHOIS, MFMUN and HAPO studies were summarised and their implications discussed. Findings of a selection of other recent studies, relevant to the continuum issue, were summarised. Some recent screening studies were reviewed, including a particular focus on studies of screening earlier in pregnancy.


The HAPO results showed a linear relationship between plasma glucose and adverse outcomes - there is a continuum of risk with no clear threshold which could divide women into those with gestational diabetes and those without. There was good evidence from trials and the meta-analysis that women who fail to control hyperglycaemic in pregnancy on lifestyle measures alone can be safely and effectively be treated with oral agents, metformin or glibenclamide, rather than going directly to insulin. Evidence showed few differences in results between glibenclamide and insulin and metformin and insulin. The exceptions were that there was less maternal hypoglycaemia with glibenclamide, but less neonatal hypoglycaemia and lower birthweight with insulin, and there was less maternal weight gain with metformin. The ACHOIS and MFMUN trials showed reductions in perinatal complications among infants born to mothers who were provided with more intensive dietary advice, blood glucose monitoring and insulin when required. The HAPO study demonstrated adverse outcomes over a much wider range of blood glucose (BG) than the traditional definition of GDM. In the HAPO study, no one measure of BG came out as being clearly the best, although fasting plasma glucose (FPG) was as good as any, and had advantages of being more convenient than an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT), but correlations between fasting and post-load levels were quite poor. Two screening strategies dominated; (1) selection by the American Diabetes Association criteria followed by the 75-g OGTT [incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) 3678 pounds], and (2) selection by high-risk ethnicity followed by the 75-g OGTT (ICER 21,739 pounds). Studies indicated that costs are about 1833 pounds higher for pregnancies complicated by gestational diabetes, suggesting that prevention would be worthwhile.


Not all of the HAPO results have been published, and none of the reviewed economic studies resolved the most difficult issue - at what level of BG does intervention become cost-effective?


The evidence base has improved since the last HTA review in 2002. There is now good evidence for treatment of oral drugs instead of insulin and it looks increasingly as if FPG could be the test of choice. However some key uncertainties remain to be resolved, which can be done by further analysis of the already collected HAPO data and by using the UK model used in developing the NICE guidelines to assess the cost-effectiveness of intervention in each of the seven HAPO categories.

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