Numbers reveal increase in gestational diabetes cases

Gestational diabetes is the fastest growing type of diabetes in Queensland with 12 percent of pregnant women now diagnosed with the condition.

Queensland Health has released the figures as part of its The Health of Queenslanders 2018 report.

The 12 per cent figure is an increase on the 10.6 per cent in 2015 and 7.6 per cent of pregnant women in 2013.

Gestational diabetes is the term used to describe diabetes diagnosed during pregnancy.

The statistics

Queensland Health’s Clinical Excellence Division Deputy Director General Dr John Wakefield said that unmanaged gestational diabetes can have serious consequences for both 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,” Dr Wakefield said.

The condition is linked to increased insulin resistance that develops during pregnancy, resulting in maternal hyperglycaemia. Women need to take two or three times more insulin than usual during pregnancy because pregnancy hormones have stopped insulin from 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.”

Mums who are 40 years or older during their pregnancy or have a BMI of 30+ have a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes. Genetic, ethnic and lifestyle factors can contribute as well.

“As people can’t change their ethnicity or their genetics, the important thing is to focus on a healthy life.”.

What you can do

Health authorities are advising mums-to-be to reduce their risk of developing diabetes by eating a well-balanced diet and exercising.

“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.” Dr Wakefield said.

Gestational diabetes usually disappears after the baby has been born but persistent diabetes cannot be ruled out until after the pregnancy has finished.

“In some cases, a woman may have Type 2 diabetes, but be unaware of it as she has never been tested prior to pregnancy.

“After a diagnosis of gestational diabetes, it is important the woman sees a diabetes educator and dietitian for nutrition advice and education.”