A new Position Statement released by Diabetes Australia, the Australian Diabetes Educators Association and the Australian Diabetes Society has highlighted the significant increase in gestational diabetes – setting out the scale of the problem, the challenges and the new range of approaches needed to manage the condition that affects many women during pregnancy.
A/Professor Glynis Ross, Endocrinologist and President of the Australian Diabetes Society explains that in the last decade, “the number of women with gestational diabetes” has increased annually “by almost 200%”.
“In the past year, more than 41,000 women develop gestational diabetes,” continues A/Professor Ross.
“There are a number of reasons for this, including the increasing age of Australian mums, their health when they fall pregnant and the changing ethnic makeup of Australia.
“Many of these factors are non-modifiable but there are a number of things we can do to help ensure pregnancy women are in the best shape possible to reduce their risk of developing the condition.”
Access to care and support
According to Diabetes Australia CEO, Professor Greg Johnson, “gestational diabetes is the fastest growing type of diabetes in Australia” with more than “110 pregnant women diagnosed with the condition every day”.
As women diagnosed with gestational diabetes are at higher risk of pregnancy complications and of developing type 2 diabetes later in life, Professor Johnson says that diagnosis is “often a great shock to the woman and family” and it may, in fact, be the “first time they have heard about diabetes”.
“It can cause great distress and the management of gestational diabetes during pregnancy often needs insulin injections to maintain glucose levels in a healthy range,” says Professor Johnson.
“After gestational diabetes, women are much more likely to develop type 2 diabetes and the children are also at an increased health risk.
“There is an insidious intergenerational issue with gestational diabetes, and we have to ensure that women and their children can access the care and support they need to reduce their risk.”
‘Additional funding would help’
Australian Diabetes Educators Association President Brett Fenton says that additional funding would help more credentialled diabetes educators provide essential education to women with gestational diabetes.
“Specialised education is an important part of managing gestational diabetes; however, gestational diabetes education and care is not covered by Medicare or many private health insurance funds,” adds Mr Fenton.
“This means some women miss out on diabetes education altogether. A new Medicare item is needed to help women with gestational diabetes access credentialled diabetes educators, accredited practising dietitians and other essential allied health professionals.”
‘New approaches needed’
Diabetes Australia CEO, Professor Johnson adds that a “more comprehensive approach” is needed to support “women with gestational diabetes”.
“New approaches are needed for pre-pregnancy, during pregnancy and after pregnancy.
“This means help for women to be a healthy weight before pregnancy, improved access to diabetes education and support for women with gestational diabetes during pregnancy, as well as ongoing support and care these women need after giving birth.
“We need to have GPs more actively involved in follow up testing to detect type 2 diabetes or prediabetes and provide accessible type 2 diabetes prevention programs for families in the years after gestational diabetes.
“We also need more funding for public health services, including diabetes centres, to ensure nobody misses out on essential care and support.”