Healthy habits the key to protecting mums and bubs from diabetes risk
Gestational diabetes has become the fastest growing type of diabetes diagnosed in Queensland - affecting thousands of pregnant women - with health authorities calling on mums-to-be to reduce their risk by adopting healthy habits such as a well-balanced diet and regular physical activity.
Twelve per cent of all pregnant Queensland women are impacted by gestational diabetes, the term used for diabetes diagnosed during pregnancy.
This compares to 10.6 per cent in 2015 and 7.6 per cent in 2013.
Deputy Director General of Queensland Health's Clinical Excellence Division Dr John Wakefield said if not managed correctly, gestational diabetes could have serious implications for mothers and their babies.
“If gestational diabetes is not treated, high blood glucose levels can
cause a range of problems, including difficult births, babies growing too big or being born too early and developing diabetes and other health issues later on,” he said.
Gestational diabetes is linked to increased insulin resistance that develops during pregnancy, resulting in maternal hyperglycaemia. Dr Wakefield said during pregnancy, women had to make two or three times more insulin than usual as pregnancy hormones stopped insulin working properly.
“New diagnosis criteria introduced in 2014/15 partially explains the rise in gestational diabetes detection rates over the past five years and has enabled greater support to be offered to the mums involved through dietitian services, medication and increased pregnancy care,” Dr Wakefield said.
“At the same time, we’ve seen increases in the both maternal age and Body Mass Index (BMI) of the population overall in Queensland and these might also be contributing to the numbers we’re seeing. This is coupled with better awareness in the wider community of what gestational diabetes is and of the risk factors involved.”
Women with a BMI of greater than 30 have an increased risk of gestational diabetes, as do mums who are 40 years or older during pregnancy. However, Dr Wakefield said a whole range of genetic, ethnic and lifestyle factors could come into play.
“As people can’t change their ethnicity or their genetics, the important thing is to focus on a healthy life,” Dr Wakefield said.
“There are some simple steps that women can take to reduce their risk. These include maintaining a healthy weight during pregnancy by monitoring weight gain, participating in regular physical activity, and eating a well-balanced diet which meets the nutritional requirements for pregnancy.”
Gestational diabetes usually disappears after the baby is born, but persistent diabetes, such as Type 2, cannot be excluded until after the pregnancy.
“In some cases, a woman may have Type 2 diabetes, but be unaware of it as she has never been tested prior to pregnancy,” Dr Wakefield said.
“After a diagnosis of gestational diabetes, it is important the woman sees a diabetes educator and dietitian for nutrition advice and education.
“Advice and education continues to be provided following birth to assist in minimising the increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in future years or of developing gestational diabetes in a future pregnancy.”
The data on gestational diabetes is set to be formally released next month as part of the upcoming The Health of Queenslanders 2018 report.
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