How to reduce diabetes risk during pregnancy

With gestational diabetes increasingly common here in the UAE, knowing whether you might be at risk is key to protecting your health and your baby’s. Ask any pregnant woman about her health concerns during those nine months and somewhere on the list, weight gain is likely to feature. After all, gaining weight is an inevitable part of the process for every mum-to-be. However; excessive weight gain during pregnancy, or obesity before conception, are two of the key risk factors for gestational diabetes, a condition which can have severe consequences for women and their babies.

Globally, gestational diabetes is believed to affect around six to eight per cent of women during pregnancy. But the incidence is a great deal higher here in the UAE, according to Dr. Fady Georges Hachem, Obstetrics and Gynecology Consultant at Burjeel Hospital, Abu Dhabi. “In the UAE, we have a high level of diabetic patients, around 19 per cent of the population, and around 17 per cent more have pre-diabetic conditions. In our clinical practice we estimate around 10 per cent of women we see have diabetes during pregnancy.”

While women who already suffer from diabetic conditions need to seek medical support before conception and throughout pregnancy, there are a number of other risk factors affecting women who would not normally suffer from blood sugar problems.

Dr Hachem says: “People who are obese are more at risk. Also people who have family history of diabetes or who have already had big babies. A patient who has had diabetes in a previous pregnancy or who has had a baby with birth defects is also more at risk.”

Excessive weight gain in early pregnancy can be a key indicator too, and looking after your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels before and during pregnancy is key to preventing gestational diabetes.

“If a patient is obese, reducing her weight before she conceives is very important,” says Dr. Hachem. “But regardless of risk, every pregnant woman must be screened between 24 and 28 weeks. Gestational diabetes can have severe consequences for the mother and child, but if a patient is treated throughout the pregnancy, those risks are very much reduced.”

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