The oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) is a cumbersome test that is time consuming, labour intensive and often poorly tolerated by pregnant women. To date, glycosylated haemoglobin (HbA1c) is the most accepted measure of chronic glycaemia outside of pregnancy. HbA1c is an uncomplicated test, less time consuming, does not require any specific patient preparation and is considered straightforward compared with the OGTT. Therefore, we prospectively tested the utility of the HbA1c when used as a screening tool in pregnancy for gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM).
A direct comparison between HbA1c levels and the OGTT results in pregnant women, tested concurrently at the 24–28 gestational week, was undertaken. A full profile of 480 pregnant
women during the period from September 2012 to July 2014 was completed. Median and mean age of participants was 29 years (range 18–47 years).
A simultaneous prospective assessment of HbA1c versus standard OGTT in a cohort of consecutive pregnant women presenting to our institute was performed.
The number of women who had GDM according to OGTT criteria was 57, representing 11.9% of the evaluated 480 pregnant women. Using a cut-off value for HbA1c at 5.1% (32 mmol/mol) for detecting GDM showed sensitivity of 61% and specificity of 68% with negative predictive value (NPV) of 93%, versus sensitivity of 27% and specificity of 95% with NPV of 91% when using HbA1c cut-off value of 5.4% (36 mmol/mol).
The results suggest that pregnant women with an HbA1c of≥5.4% (36 mmol/mol) should proceed with an OGTT. This may result in a significant reduction in the burden of testing on both patients and testing facility staff and resources. Further investigations are required to integrate and optimise the HbA1c as a single, non-fasting, screening tool for GDM.