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Focusing on Gestational diabetes

06 July 2020

A diagnosis of gestational diabetes can present an opportunity for women to make long term lifestyle changes.

That’s the message from FRANZCOG A /Prof Alexis Shub as RANZCOG marks National Diabetes Week, which runs from July 12 - July 18.

“We know that women who have gestational diabetes are at much higher risk of type 2 diabetes later in life,” A/Prof Shub says.

“So gestational diabetes is a fantastic chance for women to reassess some of their lifestyle choices. They can take some of the lessons and the changes that they make during pregnancy and carry them on into the postpartum period, subsequent pregnancies and into their life going forward. Those changes to diet and exercise can reduce their chances of getting type 2 diabetes in the next five to 10 years.”

Also, children of women with gestational diabetes are at increased risks of obesity and poorer cardiovascular outcomes, “and so it is really a chance for women to think about lifestyle for their whole family – healthy eating and exercise – to improve the outcomes for their children as well,” A/Prof Shub adds. “Breast feeding also plays a really important part in providing the best nutrition for these babies.”

What is Gestational diabetes

Diabetes is a condition where a person has higher levels of glucose in their blood. Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that is diagnosed during pregnancy, and usually goes away after the baby is born. Gestational diabetes is common, with more than 35,000 women being diagnosed with the condition or its recurrence each year in Australia and 3000–4000 women in New Zealand. This is usually diagnosed around the 24th to 28th week of pregnancy.

“For most women, gestational diabetes is managed with changes in diet and exercise,” A/Prof Shub says. “For a small number of women, medical treatment may be needed such as tablets or insulin injections.

“However, we know that following the advice you are given for managing your gestational diabetes leads to better outcomes for women and for babies.”

Advice for practitioners

During the COVID-19 pandemic, RANZCOG released advice regarding Gestational Diabetes Screening, Diagnosis and Management.

“More generally, diagnosing and treating gestational diabetes is a chance to impact on women and babies during pregnancy but it is also a really important chance for practitioners to have a long term impact on women’s health through the lifecycle by reducing rates of Type 2 diabetes and so  improving cardiovascular health,” A/Prof Shub says.

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