SINGAPORE: A new smartphone app is being used as part of a clinical trial to help pregnant women with diabetes manage their condition better and prevent excessive weight gain during pregnancy.
Gestational diabetes mellitus is a type of diabetes that develops usually during the second half of pregnancy, when there is insufficient insulin production to meet extra demands for pregnancy, resulting in high blood glucose levels.
Singapore has one of the highest rates of gestational diabetes in the world, with the condition affecting 20 to 30 per cent of expecting mothers. If left untreated or poorly managed, it can lead to various complications for both mother and baby. For the mother, this includes increased risk of high blood pressure, while the baby runs the risk of jaundice, breathing problems, and in the worst scenario, still birth.
The app, developed by the National University Hospital (NUH), is being used as part of a clinical trial for a tailored coaching programme to help more pregnant women better manage their gestational diabetes, compared with standard care alone.
It consists of several components. First, there are short, personalised interactive lessons and daily tips to help mothers understand the importance of managing the condition for themselves and their babies.
There are also tracking features to help women monitor their weight and blood glucose levels, even on the go. This is done via the detachable Aina blood glucose monitoring device, where a blood test strip is analysed to determine the user’s blood sugar.
The app can be paired with a Bluetooth weighing scale to help chart weight gain.
It also helps track food intake, which may cause spikes in blood glucose levels, said Dr Yew Tong Wei, who is site principal investigator of the SMART-GDM (gestational diabetes mellitus) clinical trial and consultant at NUH's division of endocrinology.
The app also features an automated chatbot that prompts users to take further action when their blood sugar readings are high.
The app and the study aims to target behavioural change, which doctors say is the key to managing gestational diabetes and helping mothers achieve optimal health outcomes.
“The primary outcome of the study would be gestational weight gain, because the more weight you gain during pregnancy - it is associated with a larger baby, and also the more weight you need to lose after delivery. And that increased gestational weight gain is also associated with the risk of developing type 2 diabetes after the pregnancy in the long run,” Dr Yew said.
The clinical trial began in September with 20 mums-to-be using the app. It aims to recruit a total of 340 participants over the next 10 months.